Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.



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):