For most people, Vivaldi completely associated with Venice, but
during his lifetime his music was premiered in a variety of places.
Six of his operas were performed in Prague at the Sporck Theatre.
Of these, two were only ever performed in Prague, Argippo
regina de Goti
, and this disc is a recording by Czech forces
of the former. The libretto, by Domenico Lalli, had already been
set by a variety of composers before Vivaldi used it for Prague
in 1730. Unfortunately the score was lost and only the libretto
survived. Then in 2006 Czech harpsichordist Ondrej Macek discovered
around half the arias of the opera in the library of the counts
of Thurn und Taxis.
Macek has reconstructed the opera, supplying the missing arias
from the composer’s other operas of the period. The CD
booklet for this new recording is unclear as to whether it was
Vivaldi or Macek who wrote the recitatives, but implies that
it was the latter. The recording was made live at the Teatro
Goldoni in Venice where Macek conducted a group of Czech soloists.
The CD booklet is rather vague about which bits of the opera
are original and which are restored by Macek. This means that
any critical reaction to the opera’s musico-dramatic structure
must be muted as it is unclear whether we are criticising Vivaldi,
or criticising Macek’s powers of selection. Macek also
added an overture and introductory sinfonias to the other two
acts, all taken from other Vivaldi works.
That said it, must be admitted that I have so far found Vivaldi
rather lacking as a musical dramatist. His arias are generally
beautifully put together and can often be stunners. But they
frequently seem to rather skim the surface, albeit in a rhythmically
euphoric manner. I have yet to find a Vivaldi opera which plumbs
the depths in the way that Handel does, but I live in hopes.
By baroque standards the opera is rather short, it lasts just
two hours with only eighteen arias. The plot concerns disputes
within the family of Tisifaro (Zdenek Zapl) the Grand Mogor,
who is ruler of a part of the East Indies. His only daughter
Zanaida (Pavla Stepnickova) is loved by two princes, Silvero
(Barvora Sojkova) and Argippo (Veronika Mrackova Fucikova).
Whilst Argippo is away Silvero tricks Zanaida into thinking he
is Argippo and she yields to his desires. Argippo falls in love
with Osira (Jana Binova-Koucka) and marries her. When he returns
to the court of the Grand Mogor with his new wife, Zanaida becomes
convinces that Argippo is faithless. Silvero’s deceit is
discovered, Osira’s life is placed in danger and Silvero
The plot isn’t the strongest, even by baroque standards
but the cast give it their best. All the roles are high voices
except for Tisifaro, with a mixture of sex-allocations so that
the male Silvero is a soprano and the female Zanaida is a mezzo-soprano
which can make for confusing listening unless you are following
the libretto. Neither of the two singers in the male roles, Mrackova
Fucikova and Sojkova, sounds particularly masculine.
Vivaldi’s arias are all engaging, many with completely
ravishing orchestration. It is here that Vivaldi often differs
from Handel; Vivaldi’s orchestrations are frequently more
diverse, more luxuriant than Handel offers; on this disc we have
Vivaldi’s vocal lines are frequently bravura and often
evoke his instrumental writing. The cast here all cope creditably,
though none are perfect. Passagework is often smudged, both Fucikova
and Stepnickova have a rather covered manner of delivery. Binova-Koucka
inclines to be over-emphatic and can be too careful with her
runs. The tessitura of Tisifaro’s act I aria obviously
taxes Kapl but he copes with bravura.
None of these faults is dire and the performance is highly listenable.
It was, after all, recorded live. And the opera presents a wonderful
sequence of infectiously toe-tapping numbers. It is only really
in the third act that we get slower, more deeply felt numbers.
The small Czech period instrument group, Hofmusici Baroque Ensemble
accompanies in a lively manner. They relish Vivaldi’s imaginative
orchestrations, though there are lapses in ensemble.
The CD booklet includes the libretto in Italian and the English
translation is available for download on the Dynamic web-site.
Though the CD booklet does provide some background, I would have
liked far more information about the source of the extra material.
Only the sinfonias are credited with their origins.
If you are looking for a Vivaldi opera, then this is not really
a library choice. There are plenty of finer performances out
there. But if you are interested in Vivaldi’s Czech connections
then Macek and his forces give a lively and personable, if imperfect,
account of one of Vivaldi’s Czech operas.