of Vivaldi operas are now becoming increasingly common in
the catalogues with at least two labels providing a series
of new recordings of these previously ignored scores. The
German-based CPO label have released a live set of the three
act opera Tito Manlio (Titus Manlius) which
claims to be a, ‘world première and complete recording performed
on original instruments’. This CPO version was recorded at
live performances of the opera staged at the Opera Barga Festival.
So much for the contention that the recordings of operas are
a thing of the past. The French label Naïve has just released
a studio version of the Tito Manlio with the Accademia
Bizantina under the direction of Ottavio Dantone, on Opus
III, OP30413. Also this month DG’s Archiv Produktion have
issued a world première recording of Vivaldi’s recently rediscovered
opera Montezuma from Il Complesso Barocco under Alan
Curtis on Deutsche Grammophon 4775996.
may prove to be the golden age for period-informed performances
of Vivaldi scores on record. There are several outstanding
specialist period-instrument ensembles that have come to prominence
on the late-baroque scene in the last ten or so years and
have successfully raised the game. Earlier pioneering interpretations
of Vivaldi and baroque music in general using period-instruments
were constrained by the severe limitations of their instruments.
Consequently performance style often came across as technically
mechanical, rather lacklustre, frequently insipid and even
sterile. The contemporary specialist performers on this CPO
set explore and exploit the strength of their period instruments
rather than being restricted by the weaknesses.
leading period-instrument ensembles include most notably:
the Concerto Italiano under Rinaldo Alessandrini; the Venice
Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon; Europa Galante under
Fabio Biondi; L'Arte dell'Arco under baroque violinist Federico
Guglielmo; The English Concert now that they are directed
by Andrew Manze; the Ensemble Explorations under Roel Dieltiens;
the Freiburger Barockorchester under Gottfried von der Goltz
and the Polish-based Arte Dei Suonatori under Rachel Podger.
Manlius) is the last of the four operas composed
by Vivaldi during 1718-20, in Mantua, for Prince Philipp von
Hessen-Darmstadt, who was the Habsburg Governor plenipotentiary
ruling on behalf of the Habsburg crown. Working against the
clock to prepare a work for Prince Philipp of Mantua’s forthcoming
wedding, the front of the autograph score indicates that Vivaldi
spent only five days on the compilation of the score. This
most likely refers to the time taken for the revision process
rather than the composition of the score in its entirety.
The first performance of Tito Manlio was given at the
Teatro Arciducale detto il Comico, Mantua in 1719.
librettist Matteo Noris was a prominent figure in Venetian
opera circles in the second half of the seventeenth century
and his appealing text of Tito Manlio was set by several
early eighteenth century composers, in addition to Vivaldi.
In Tito Manlio Vivaldi depicts a set of astonishingly
lively and individualised characters in a typically complicated
and often ridiculous plot that moves at a breathless pace.
The score stands out for the virtuosity of its vocal parts
and the high quality of its arias. To do full justice to this
well assembled cast of vocal types, it was necessary to find
eight first-class singers, possessing not only considerable
technical and expressive capacities, but also subtle differences
in timbre and colour.
opera tells the story of Titus Manlius, the Roman Consul,
who is engaged in war with the people of Latium. Conflicts
of love and duty arise, with his daughter Vitellia in love
with the Latin commander Geminius, but loved by the Latin
Knight Lucius. Manlius, the son of Titus Manlius, kills Geminius,
disobeying his father, and is condemned to death, in spite
of the pleas of his beloved Servilia, sister of Geminius.
Titus Manlius rejects the offer of Lucius to free him, but
eventually father and son are reconciled.
gallery of remarkable characters features Titus Manlius’s
son, the heroic young Manlius, who is given a series of astounding
virtuoso arias. Young Manlius is cast here no longer as a
castrato but as a female soprano played by the German-born
Elisabeth Scholl. With a steady and firm voice, exhibiting
virtually no vibrato, Scholl is successful as Manlius, especially
in the arias, “Perche t’amo” and in “Sia con pace,
o Roma augusta” where her voice is urgent and dramatic.
Scholl is excellent in her aria with the horn accompaniment,
“Se non v’aprite al di” and she presents a tragic quality
in the aria, “Ti lascierei gl’affetti miei” which is
accompanied by the mellow sounds of muted oboes and bassoons.
I did detect slight tuning difficulties from Scholl in the
arioso, “Sonno, se pur sei sonno” but otherwise the
effect was appealing. Soprano Scholl hits top form in her
engaging aria, “Doppo si rei disastri” with a sparklingly
sung performance. Here Vivaldi’s colourful orchestral accompaniment
is especially conspicuous.
Manlius, as the Roman Consul, is a strict and cruel figure
possessing all the qualities of a belligerent and threatening
character as portrayed by the Italian bass Sergio Foresti.
In Titus’s aria, “Se il cor guerriero”, where the orchestral
accompaniment could have come straight out of Vivaldi’s The
Four Seasons, Foresti displays a rich and characterful
voice, although he seemed marginally uncomfortable in the
lower register. The Italian bass is confident, displaying
a smoother projection in the aria “No, che non vedra”.
daughter Vitellia, beloved of Geminius, is played by Rosa
Dominguez the Argentinean mezzo. Vitellia is endowed with
a cruel disposition similar to her father. The striking voice
of Dominguez, although a touch uncomfortable in her top register,
can be a convincingly revengeful Geminius as displayed in
her aria “Grida quel sangue.” In her lengthy ‘duet’
with the solo cello in “Di verdi ulivo” Dominguez reveals
the tender side of Geminius’s character. Her voice throughout
is smooth and creamy, yet perhaps she could have displayed
slightly more expression.
commander of the Roman troops, the centurion Decius is sung
by the counter-tenor Thierry Grégoire. Decius’s stirs strong
emotions with his moving, “No, che non morira”. Grégoire,
who displays exemplary diction throughout, is warm and expressive
in his aria, “E’ pur dolce ad un’anima amante” and
pleasantly agile in the excellent aria, “No, che non morira”.
tenor Davide Livermore as Geminius, the commander of the Latin
troops, appears and disappears with the might of a lightning
bolt. Geminius, who is engaged to Vitellia, is provided by
Vivaldi with intensive recitatives that Livermore performs
Nicky Kennedy is cast as the heroic figure of the Latin Knight
Lucius. Kennedy rather flutters her way through her aria with
horn, where Lucius proclaims his love for Vitellia in, “Alla
caccia d’un bell’adorato”. In her extended aria, “Non
ti lusinghi la crudeltade” Kennedy has steadied and gives
a smooth and appealing performance. The rich woodwind accompaniment
is outstanding here. In Lucius’s aria with the virtuosic trumpet
part, “Combatta un gentil cor” the soprano is in especially
fine shape. Vivaldi’s varied accompaniment is especially evident.
Kennedy maintains her rather uneven performance seemingly
finding difficulty keeping up with the swift pace in her important
aria, “Fra le Procelle”. In the aria, “Chi seguir
vuol la costanza” Kennedy returns to top form singing
with an abundance of charm.
Lucia Sciannimanico, as Servilia, is the sister of the Latin
commander Geminius and betrothed to Manlius. Servilia is devastated
by the death of her brother and the judgement meted out to
her betrothed Manlius. The tragic bitterness in Sciannimanico’s
aria, “Liquore ingrato” is apparent in spite of a rather
warbling performance. Servilia’s air of resignation in the
lengthy aria with the flute overlay, “Sempre copra notte
oscura” is admirably portrayed by Sciannimanico. She has
a light unobtrusive vibrato and here seems slightly less secure
in the lower register of her range. In the highly appealing
aria, “Tu dormi in tante pene” and in “Andro fida
e sconsolata” Sciannimanico is on top form, displaying
an attractively rich and creamy timbre. Vivaldi’s orchestral
writing is superb throughout and Servilia’s aria, “Tu dormi
in tante pene” includes a delectable passage for the solo
Taddia takes the comic bass-baritone part of Lindus the Latin
servant of Vitellia. In the arias, “L’intendo e non l’intendo”
and “Rabbia che accendasi” Taddia is commanding and
expressive. Of special note is the well sustained and bold
singing in the aria “Brutta cosa e far la spia”.
the evidence of this CPO release the forces of the period-instrument
ensemble Modo Antiquo, under the expert direction of Federico
Maria Sardelli, prove themselves to be at the forefront of
historically informed late-baroque interpretation. I just
love their unrestrained enthusiasm for Vivaldi’s score, in
this well cast live account. It is stylish as well as being
infused with immediacy and vivacity.
sound quality is most pleasing and one is not aware of the
audience. The plentiful and informative annotation is of a
good standard, although there are a few errors here and there.
This Vivaldi series on CPO goes from strength to strength.