Given this is such a recent release I do seriously wonder how much consideration has been given to some of the comments made by my fellow reviewers - maybe they got advance copies! I also can't help feeling that the negative reactions may have also been coloured by Savall's previous and admittedly disappointing excursion into this territory with "Farnace". As far as I'm concerned this is a worthy addition to Naive's very very commendable series and if (like me) you've bought the others...
Vivaldi's Teuzzone was first performed in Mantua on 26th December 1718 under the patronage of the city's governor Philippe of Hesse-Darmstadt. The libretto by Apostolo Zeno, reflecting a Venetian fascination with exoticism and the Orient ever since Marco Polo, had already been produced as an opera ten times previously by other composers.
The argument concerns the dying Chinese emperor Troncone, confirming his son Teuzzone as heir, only for the emperor's scheming young widow Zidania to forge a will to her own benefit with the assistance of her suitors, Cino the minister and Sivenio the general, unaware of her desire to also marry the desirable Teuzzone, much to the consternation of Teuzzone's fiancée the Tatar princess Zelinda. All turns out well in the end of course, with the assistance of Tatar prince Argonte, various persons either magnanimously pardoned or imprisoned as appropriate.
Jordi Savall's previous Vivaldi opera recording released as part of the Naive/Opus111 series, Farnace, has been panned for supplanting the lead role originally written for alto with a baritone. This time at least he doesn't make such a crass and bungling mistake but I don't feel he has top class performers at his disposal here. The lead character of Teuzzone, originally cast as a trouser role for a soprano, is taken by male soprano Paolo Lopez, who has potential but whose delivery can sometimes be rather tremulous, wavering and gasping.
Mezzo Rafaella Milanesi playing the devious Zidania is somewhat flat and doesn't sparkle on the whole. Contralto Delphine Galou (Zelinda) is fine enough, but these two characters don't feel right together somehow when Zidania has been changed from the original alto to mezzo. Soprano Roberta Mameli (Cino) shows some promise at times but is a bit variable.
Baritone Furio Zanasi as the unredeemed general Sivenio is as dependable as always. Countertenor Antonio Giovanni (Egaro, captain of the guard) is subdued, and too breathy. Tenor Makoto Sakurada is solid enough in the literally short-lived role of emperor Troncone, doubling up as the Tatar Prince Argonte towards the end.
Overall the cast does not feel right up to the expected standard of this series, and Savall's conducting is somewhat languorous and leaden and seems unable to give this composition any lift and bring it to life. It's OK, and I feel I can't say much more than that. It looks like we'll just have to wait to get a decent recording of this opera.
The three discs come in a double jewel case, packaged along with separate booklet in a cardboard sleeve. The booklet provides notes & synopsis (English/French/Italian/German) plus libretto with English & French translations.
This opera is a wonderful addition to Naive Vivaldi's opera collection. Probably not as good performance as the ones conducted by Spinosi in Naive, but an outstanding performance in any case. This is a live recording but the sound quality is really good. The best singing here is by soprano Roberta Mameli who has a beautiful, clear and resonant voice, although she shows some difficulties in the agilities, but her aria opening the third act is worthy of the price of the disc. Delphine Galou is also very good, and she has very beautiful arias (for example the funny "La timida cervetta", listen and you will sure agree). Paolo López singing is also impressive, although he tends to abuse of apoggiature, and sometimes the voice sounds a little bit forced. The rest of the cast is good enough, and the orchestra sounds really good.
I support this series, but these operas need truly great interpreters. Like the Farnace this recent effort with Savall is another misfire. (Savall, a baritone as Farnace, really?) In my opinion this recording flops due to the lack-lustre performance and inert interpretation. Although the music is OK it is not on the same level of inspiration of say Farnace, L'Olimpiade or Griselda, and at times can feel a bit like second rate Vivaldi. The orchestra - the only outstanding feature of this recording - delivers some just, crisp, exciting playing despite all efforts by Savall and cast to drown out all originality and spontaneity thereby consigning this performance to mediocrity. Unfortunately, this is the only recording of Teuzzone worth having: be warned the dreaded recording of Teuzzone with Manzotti should be avoided at all cost... Where was the whacky Spinosi or the stunning Alessandrini or de Marchi. Come on Naive - get your act together!