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Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Griselda, RV718 - Dramma per musica in Three Acts (1735)
Giles Tomkins (bass) – Gualtiero, King of Tessaglia; Marion Newman (mezzo) – Griselda, His Wife, the Queen of Tessaglia; Carla Huhtanen (soprano) – Costanza, Daughter of Griselda and Gualtiero, Princess of Tessaglia; Lynne McMurtry (mezzo) – Roberto, Prince of Atene; Jason Nedecky (baritone) – Corrado, Roberto’s Brother; Colin Ainsworth (tenor) – Ottone, Noble Knight of Tessaglia; Opera in Concert, Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
rec. Grace Church on-the-Hill, Toronto, Canada, 4-14 September, 2006
The Italian libretto and an English translation may be accessed in the future at the Naxos website
NAXOS 8.660211-13 [3 CDs: 65:17 + 64:21 + 39:28]
Experience Classicsonline


Based on a libretto by Apostolo Zeno, revised by Carlo Goldoni, who reduced it from 34 arias and five duets to 19 arias and one trio, Griselda was first performed on 18 May 1935 at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice. It is a fine score with inventive instrumentation and several arias worthy to be set beside Handel’s best efforts – Costanza’s Ombre vane in act 3 almost on a par with Piangerò from Giulio Cesare. The overture is a three-movement sinfonia that is played with a spring in the step in the outer movements and the Andante also rather fast. Kevin Mallon has regularly made his mark through vital readings of the baroque repertoire and this is no exception. The Aradia Ensemble on period instruments play well and the fairly long recitatives are taken at rather brisk tempos, which is a blessing in more ways than one. The dramatic tension is definitely maintained. Besides the harpsichord a cello and a theorbo are also employed as continuo instruments. Overall the instrumental side of this project is eminently well taken care of. I prefer the thrill and potency of this reading to a more polished but meek and bloodless version.
 
Several of the soloists are also accomplished. Best of all is Carla Huhtanen, a truly brilliant baroque soprano with excellent coloratura. Just listen to her second act aria Agitata da due venti (CD 2 tr. 4). She also sings Ombre vane (CD 3 tr. 4) with feeling. Marion Newman is an expressive, rather vibrant Griselda and the recitative and aria that finish act 1 (CD 1 tr. 15) is a dramatic high-spot. Lynne McMurtry also sings well as Roberto and has a very fine aria in act 2: Dal Tribunal d’amore (CD 2 tr. 5).
 
Of the men Giles Tomkins as Gualtiero is expressively dramatic though not very polished. He tends to shout but no one can deny that the aria Se ria procella (CD 1 tr. 4) is thrilling and he manages the extensive runs with assurance. Colin Ainsworth sings Ottone with polished but rather inexpressive tone and Jason Nedecky’s Corrado is technically good but rather anonymous.
 
Purists may react to the fact that these three roles are all transposed down an octave, even though there is no mentioning of this in the notes. Ottone was originally written for a soprano, Corrado for alto and Gualtiero for tenor. Personally I don’t mind very much and I rather like Giles Tomkins’s wholehearted approach to Gualtiero’s role, warts and all, even though a tenor would have sounded more comfortable.
 
There is another recording of the opera in Naïve’s ongoing Vivaldi Edition, which my colleague Glyn Pursglove gave a rave review just over a year ago. This version is also musicologically correct in the allocation of voices for the different characters and generally speaking – I haven’t heard it yet – it is probably the version to own. Still I believe that many readers can also derive a great deal of pleasure from Kevin Mallon’s recording – and it does have a price advantage.
 
Göran Forsling

see also review by Brian Wilson 


 


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