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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Dorilla in Tempe – Melodramma eroico-pastorale in three acts (1734)
Dorilla – Romina Basso (mezzo-soprano)
Elmiro – Serena Malfi (mezzo-soprano)
Nomio – Marina de Liso (mezzo-soprano)
Filindo – Lucia Cirillo (mezzo-soprano)
Eudamia – Sonia Prina (contralto)
Admeto – Christian Senn (baritone)
Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera, I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis
rec. 2017, Auditorio Stelio Molo della RSI, Lugano, Switzerland
Booklet notes and synopsis in English, French, Italian, and German
Italian libretto with English and French translations
NAÏVE OP30560 [77:14 + 64:57]

The latest operatic issue in Na´ve’s continuing Vivaldi Edition – which aims to commit all the works from the manuscripts of the composer’s collection deposited in Turin’s National Library – brings the pastoral-themed opera Dorilla in Tempe vividly to life. But all is not well in the vale of Tempe (in ancient Thessaly) as the Arcadian idyll is beset by the murderous Python which, like the Minotaur, demands human immolations in order to be assuaged. The Oracle’s unwelcome advice that Dorilla, the king’s daughter, be sacrificed is quickly resolved by the sudden intervention of Apollo, disguised as the shepherd Nomio, who kills the monster. However, all that is only a passing incident at the outset of the opera’s more protracted chain of tangled love interests.

They are played out in a fast-paced and engaging score by Vivaldi, whose arias frequently show the up-to-date influence of the Neapolitan school of opera composers, typified by sturdy, pounding rhythms, and more direct and sharply-focussed vocalism. Indeed the original 1726 version of the work does not survive, and so Diego Fasolis turns to its 1734 revival, which is, strictly speaking, a pasticcio – Vivaldi substituted for that eight arias by his contemporaries Giacomelli, Leo, Hasse, and Sarri, which exemplify the emerging stylistic fashion from Naples that would pave the way to full-blown Classicism.

Vivaldi’s own style diverges from this at other times, however, so it is a notable achievement by Fasolis to maintain an irresistible momentum across the work and forge it into a dramatically integrated whole. He establishes the necessary verve to accompany the often absurd theatrical spectacle, implied by the narrative, from the outset with a vigorous account of the Overture, but also conjures the pastoral mood in its final movement, which quotes from the famous ‘Spring’ Concerto and leading directly into the opera’s opening chorus, which derives from the same material.

Although Dorilla is the central figure of the opera, her character is relatively low-key, and so Romina Basso is not called upon to make as forceful and virtuosic impression as might be expected. Her Act One recitative, where she contemplates her impending sacrifice to the Python, is achieved with a dignified simplicity; and she expresses Dorilla’s sorrow and turn towards possible death again very effectively in her Act Three aria Il povero mio core, when her lowly lover, the shepherd Elmiro, is condemned to death by her father, King Admeto, for obstructing his plans to marry her to Nomio instead, despite her wishes. But Basso’s performance in the opening Act Two aria Come l’onde could be more perturbed as Dorilla expresses her confused feelings.

Serena Malfi takes the trouser role of Elmiro, and she bears similar dignity and nobility to match Dorilla, though also shows variously more heroism and passion in certain arias, culminating in her powerfully and precisely executed coloratura of Hasse’s Non ha pi¨, as Elmiro is about to be led off to execution before the sudden happy ending. The cause of the disruption to Dorilla and Elmiro’s initially secret but innocent romance is the scheming of the nymph Eudamia, characterised by Sonia Pria suggestively as a cynical and manipulative minx, as she stirs up trouble by revealing to Admeto that Dorilla actually loves Elmiro, for whom Eudamia also has feelings. Pria expresses that with an almost shrill, snide tone that sounds somewhat more like a male soprano. Her Act Three aria Pi¨ non vo’ mirar issues in an odd sort of warbling, although it does not affect the technical precision of her melismas. Filindo in turn is in love with Eudamia and so is understandably dismayed that her affections have strayed elsewhere; Lucia Cirillo (taking another trouser role) expresses those frustrations with impressive incision and embellishments to the aria Rete, lacci, e strali, has a burning ardour in Arsa da rai cocenti and confident, steely attack on Col pacier.

Marina de Liso negotiates the leaps and virtuosity of Nomio’s music with seamless ease, as he advances his amorous cause with Dorilla, before graciously giving way to Elmiro’s claims. Christian Senn makes for a bold Admeto as he urges Dorilla to marry Nomio, heralding the tyrannical and potentially murderous authority, with which he will do that in his first aria Dall’orrido soggiorno, though his declamations border on shouting and the short, choppy vocal phrases become wearing.

Together the singers constitute an ideally dynamic cast for this recording, and the Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera makes a crisp and equally colourful contribution in the several brief choral numbers which, unusually, appear in this opera seria. Those who have been collecting Na´ve’s Vivaldi opera series won’t be disappointed by this latest instalment – indeed it is one of the best yet. Those who have not will find this an attractive way in to Vivaldi’s operas, revealing that he could attain a similar, if more sporadic, level of inspiration as Handel in such works.

Curtis Rogers

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