Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Anthony Negus conducts Das Rheingold at Longborough

There are those in England who decorate their front lawns with ever-smiling garden gnomes, but in rural Gloucestershire the Graham family has gone one better; their converted barn is inhabited, not by diminutive porcelain figures, but fantasy creatures of Norse mythology - dwarves, giants and gods.

Carmen in San Francisco

A razzle-dazzle, bloodless Carmen at the War Memorial, further revival of Francesca Zambello’s 2006 Covent Garden production already franchised to Oslo, Sidney and Washington, D.C.

Weimar Berlin - Bittersweet Metropolis: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra

Strictly speaking, The Weimar Republic began on 11th August 1919 when the Weimar Constitution was announced and ended with the Enabling Act of 23rd March 1933 when all power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag was disbanded.

A superb Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park

Investec Opera Holland Park’s brilliantly cast new production of Un ballo in maschera reunites several of the creative team from last year’s terrific La traviata, with director Rodula Gaitanou, conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren and lighting designer Simon Corder being joined by the designer, takis.

A Classy Figaro at The Grange Festival

Where better than The Grange’s magnificent grounds to present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Hampshire’s neo-classical mansion, with its aristocratic connections and home to The Grange Festival, is the perfect setting to explore 18th century class structures as outlined in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto.

A satisfying Don Carlo opens Grange Park Opera 2019

Grange Park Opera opened its 2019 season with a revival of Jo Davies fine production of Verdi's Don Carlo, one of the last (and finest) productions in the company's old home in Hampshire.

Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, 2019

The first woman composer to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize could not have been a worthier candidate.

Josquin des Prez and His Legacy: Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall

The renown and repute of Josquin des Prez (c.1450-1521) both during his lifetime and in the years following his death was so extensive and profound that many works by his contemporaries, working in Northern France and the Low Countries, were mis-attributed to him. One such was the six-part Requiem by Jean Richafort (c.1480-c.1550) which formed the heart of this poised concert by the vocal ensemble Cinquecento at Wigmore Hall, in which they gave pride of place to Josquin’s peers and successors and, in the final item, an esteemed forbear.

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio United – F X Roth and Les Siècles, Paris

Symphonie fantastique and Lélio together, as they should be, with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles livestreamed from the Philharmonie de Paris (link below). Though Symphonie fantastique is heard everywhere, all the time, it makes a difference when paired with Lélio because this restores Berlioz’s original context.

Ivo van Hove's The Diary of One Who Disappeared at the Linbury Theatre

In 1917 Leoš Janáček travelled to Luhačovice, a spa town in the Zlín Region of Moravia, and it was here that he met for the first time Kamila Stösslová, the young married woman, almost 40 years his junior, who was to be his muse for the remaining years of his life.

Manon Lescaut opens Investec Opera Holland Park's 2019 season

At this end of this performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Investec Opera Holland Park, the first question I wanted to ask director Karolina Sofulak was, why the 1960s?

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Cosmic traveling through his Klavierstücke, Kontakte and Stimmung

Stockhausen. Cosmic Prophet. Two sequential concerts. Music written for piano, percussion, sound diffusion and the voice. We are in the mysterious labyrinth of one of the defining composers of the last century. That at least ninety-minutes of one of these concerts proved to be an event of such magnitude is as much down to the astonishing music Stockhausen composed as it is to the peerless brilliance of the pianist who took us on the journey through the Klavierstücke. Put another way, in more than thirty years of hearing some of the greatest artists for this instrument - Pollini, Sokolov, Zimerman, Richter - this was a feat that has almost no parallels.

Don Giovanni at Garsington Opera

A violent splash of black paint triggers the D minor chord which initiates the Overture. The subsequent A major dominant is a startling slash of red. There follows much artistic swishing and swirling by Don Giovanni-cum-Jackson Pollock. The down-at-heel artist’s assistant, Leporello, assists his Master, gleefully spraying carmine oil paint from a paint-gun. A ‘lady in red’ joins in, graffiti-ing ‘WOMAN’ across the canvas. The Master and the Woman slip through a crimson-black aperture; the frame wobbles.

A brilliant The Bartered Bride to open Garsington's 2019 30th anniversary season

Is it love or money that brings one happiness? The village mayor and marriage broker, Kecal, has passionate faith in the banknotes, while the young beloveds, Mařenka and Jeník, put their own money on true love.

A reverent Gluck double bill by Classical Opera

In staging this Gluck double bill for Classical Opera, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, director John Wilkie took a reverent approach to classical allegory.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Time Stands Still: L'Arpeggiata at Wigmore Hall

Christina Pluhar would presumably irritate the Brexit Party: she delights in crossing borders and boundaries. Mediterraneo, the programme that she recorded and performed with L’Arpeggiata in 2013, journeyed through the ‘olive frontier’ - Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Spain, southern Italy - mixing the sultry folk melodies of Greece, Spain and Italy with the formal repetitions of Baroque instrumental structures, and added a dash of the shady timbres and rhythmic litheness of jazz.

Puccini’s Tosca at The Royal Opera House

Sitting through Tosca - and how we see and hear it these days - does sometimes make one feel one hasn’t been to the opera but to a boxing match. Joseph Kerman’s lurid, inspired or plain wrong-headed description of this opera as ‘a shabby little shocker’ was at least half right in this tenth revival of Jonathan Kent’s production.

A life-affirming Vixen at the Royal Academy of Music

‘It will be a dream, a fairy tale that will warm your heart’: so promised a preview article in Moravské noviny designed to whet the appetite of the Brno public before the first performance of Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the town’s Na hradbách Theatre on 6th November 1924.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Antonio Vivaldi: La fida ninfa
03 Aug 2009

Vivaldi: La fida ninfa

Although Antonio Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions were highly popular in his lifetime, and have been held in high regard throughout the centuries, most of his operas have been — until recently — relegated to obscurity.

Antonio Vivaldi: La fida ninfa

Piau, Cangemi, Lemieux, Mingardo; Jaroussky, Lehtipuu, Regazzo, Senn. Ensemble Matheus. Directed by Jean-Christophe Spinosi.

Naïve OP 39210 [3 CDs]

$30.49  Click to buy

This sad state of affairs is being rectified by the wonderful new series of opera recordings available through the Naïve label, part of its larger Vivaldi Edition project. Naïve’s most recent offering in this series is a concert production of La fida ninfa, a work which was premiered at the opening of Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico in January of 1732. One of the organizers of the event was the librettist, Francesco Scipione, Marquis di Maffei. Scipione was a Jesuit-educated aristocrat who specialized in Etruscology, dramatic theory, and classical philology — but still managed to find time to participate in the War of the Spanish Succession and, in his later years, write a famous theological tract attacking Jansenist doctrines. The poet’s most famous literary effort was undoubtedly his dramma, Merope, a work which served as one of the models for Voltaire’s tragedy of the same name. Unfortunately Scipione’s libretto for La fida Ninfa, an allegory on matrimonial love replete with love-struck nymphs, grumpy pirates, and multiple cases of mistaken identity, is less distinguished. While it is a credit to the composer that he was still able to create an impressive work from this clichéd literary material, the lack of a convincing plot line weakens the overall impact of the opera.

More significant for modern listeners, however, is the fact that La fida ninfa betrays the influences of the new musical style which manifested itself most powerfully a year later in the work of Pergolesi — La serva padrona. This new approach can be heard immediately in the overture of Vivaldi’s work, which features short, repeated melodic motifs, a decidedly homophonic texture, and the spare harmonic palette more typical of the mid-century style than the high baroque. This impression is only strengthened in the many beautiful solo arias and duets of the opera, where there is an unmistakable emphasis on simplicity and clarity of formal structures. Also indicative of this new style are the ensemble numbers which end each of the three acts: the remarkably beautiful trio finale of Act I (“S’egli è ver”), the quartet which concludes Act II (“Così fu gl’occhi miei?”), and the duet/choral conclusion of Act III (“Non temer”) sound much less like Vivaldi than they do Pergolesi or even Mozart.

Musical highlights of this recording include the restrained virtuosity of Verónica Cangemi as Morasto (her interpretation of the Act I aria “Dolce fiamma” is particularly fine), and the musicality of Topi Lehtipuu (Narete), who brings a relaxed and confident tone to all his solo arias. Vivaldi lovers will especially enjoy Narete’s beautiful lament (“Deh ti piega”) in Act II, where the very able conductor, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, creates an astonishingly sensitive interplay between the tenor and the orchestra. Lorenzo Regazzo is highly effective in his near-buffo role as Oralto, the spurned and highly irritable pirate, and Sandrine Piau portrays Licori, the faithful nymph, with great sensitivity and an impressive command baroque vocal technique. While there is no shortage of vocal fireworks in this recording (Cangemi’s virtuoso performance of “Destino avaro” in Act II verges on the unbelievable) the pastoral moments of La fida ninfa seem the most memorable: the haunting duets “Dimmi pastore” (Act I) between Philippe Jaroussky (Osmino) and Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Elpina) and “Pan, ch’ognun venera” between Lehtipuu and Jaroussky in Act III are spectacular. It is in these less hurried sections of the opera that Spinosi’s orchestra displays its wonderful musicality and attention to detail which are the hallmarks of the Vivaldi recordings of the Ensemble Matheus.

La fida ninfa is not one of Vivaldi’s better efforts. The music for the finale, which features a dialogue between Juno and Aeolus (competently sung by Sara Mingardo and Christian Senn), is artificial and uninspired. Even the Tempesta di mare which precedes the last scene is a disappointment (through no fault of the orchestra) and does not measure up to similar moments Vivaldi’s Seasons, for example. The fact that this opera was composed in great haste (Vivaldi was not even the first choice of the organizers of the theatre opening, having replaced their preferred composer, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, at the last moment) is sadly apparent in some of the music. Even so, the Ensemble Matheus’ fine performance of this work is remarkable, and more than compensates for the occasional weaknesses of the composition and blandness of Scipione’s libretto.

Donald R. Boomgaarden
Dean, College of Music and Fine Arts
Loyola University New Orleans

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):