Antonio Vivaldi wrote a large number of operas, but
it is only in recent decades that these works have been revived. The
modern age of Vivaldi opera began in 1979, when Pier Luigi Pizzi produced
Orlando Furioso in Verona. Since then, many performances of this work
and others have been staged. This DVD presents the 1989 revival of this
production, performed in San Francisco.
Antonio Vivaldi's opera takes place on the sorceress
Alcina's enchanted island. Although old and ugly, Alcina has the magical
power to make herself appear beautiful and to bewitch courtiers who
set foot in her realm. She has tried to make her power eternal by gaining
possession of the invincible guard Arontes under the statue of the wizard
in the Temple of Infernal Hecate. Brought to the island by fate, the
other main characters of the opera, namely the beautiful Angelica, her
young Saracen lover, Medoro, and the jealous Orlando--a Christian knight
and Charlemagne's nephew, who is in love with Angelica--are entwined
in an intriguing love story of furious passion and despair.
Marilyn Horne gives a fine performance in the bel canto
style, although her stage presence is somewhat stiff and wooden. The
minimal staging has her often wandering back and forth across an almost
empty set, looking out of place. The staging is as hokey as the libretto,
but, if you can let these things fade away, the music is wonderful.
Horne is not alone giving a wonderful performance.
Soprano Susan Patterson is magnificent; her voice is smooth and subtle.
Countertenor Jeffrey Gall gives a moving performance, especially in
the long aria Sol da te, mio dolce amore, a haunting, melancholy piece
with obbligato flute.
Kathleen Kuhlmann is an excellent singer, and she,
too, has her chance to shine in the spotlight of Vivaldi’s beautiful
music, especially in the aria Vorresti amor da me? She is also very
beautiful, and has excellent stage presence.
The recording is fine for a live recording, with the
usual weaknesses as the singers move around, and perhaps more coughing
than usual among the audience. While the staging is uninteresting, and
the sets and costumes boring, musically this disc shines, with a bouquet
of excellent singers. This is certainly worth having, especially since
there are so few recordings (especially videos) of Vivaldi’s operas.