Paolo Lopez (sopranista; Teuzzone); Raffaella Milanesi (mezzo; Zidiana); Delphine
Galou (contralto; Zelinda); Roberta Mameli (soprano; Cino); Furio Zanasi
(baritone; Siveno); Antonio Giovannini (countertenor; Egaro); Makoto Sakurada
Argonte); Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall.
Naïve OP30513 TT: 159:42 (3 CDs).
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Beautiful tosh. Whatever Vivaldi wrote, he usually wrote a lot of. He composed
over fifty operas, not counting "pastiche" works made up of arias
from other scores. Since new manuscripts still come to light in ducal or
and libraries, that number may grow. Why they discover things on the order
of Vivaldi's operas rather than Bach's St. Mark or St. Luke Passion seems
a mean streak in celestial humor.
As you can tell, I'm not a huge fan of the Vivaldi operas I've heard, despite
the beauty of the score. It comes down to my view of opera as primarily a
dramatic form expressing conflict among characters. I've read a few articles
emotional and rhetorical conventions of Baroque drama, and of course it makes
to expect Vivaldi to express feeling in the same way as Wagner. However,
in Vivaldi's case, I suspect scholarly special pleading. As a composer, he
either character or dramatic conflict. His operas are "pretty" and
static. Purcell in Dido and Aeneas, Monteverdi in Orfeo, and
Handel in Giulio
Cesare, on the other hand, can strike the operatic gold of pathos.
Teuzzone is a bunch of nonsense about Machiavellian intrigue for the
throne in ancient China. The exotic setting drew crowds, but it makes little
difference to the action, which could take place in ancient Rome or Abyssinia
without damage. A scheming beautiful widowed empress keeps three men
on a string as she lusts for Teuzzone, the rightful heir of her late husband,
in love with his beautiful and virtuous Tartar bride. You can see the opportunities
the story gives an operatic composer -- essentially a retelling of Phaedra,
with politics thrown in -- opportunities which Vivaldi usually throws away.
a lyric rather than a dramatic composer and has his big successes in the
numbers illustrating birds and storms and storms at sea and ceremony and
two arias. In the first, "Sorò tua regina e sposa," the empress
sweet-talks two of her suitors simultaneously, while assuring each that her flattery
of the other is mere dissembling. This would suit even better an opera buffa.
The Tartar bride has a honey of a number in the last act, "Per lacerarto," in
which she tells the audience what she will do to the empress for trying to poach
her man. No physical violence, of course, since the heroine is classy. However,
this kind of music will form the basis of the "vengeance" aria.
Nevertheless, you can look a long time for genuine drama in Teuzzone.
Vivaldi has almost no gift for portraying psychology. The characters have
as much life as porcelain figurines. Consequently, the score comes across
more than a nearly three-hour anthology of Baroque recitatives and arias.
Also, the score calls for only two voices in the normal male range -- one
and one tenor. We hear counter-tenors, contraltos, mezzos, and various soprano
so many male roles are played by "head" voices, it can seem like
a drag show, at least at first. You welcome the lower voices when they come.
can listen to a disc at a time.
But I really do want to listen, due both to Vivaldi's felicity with a tune
and to the performers. This is really fine singing and playing. Most of the
are too small for Verdi, but they can fly over the Vivaldian roulades and
phrase absolutely beautifully. Jordi Savall and his Concert des Nations ensemble
with chamber-like sensitivity. I don't know what others mean by "musical," but
I mean that the singing lines move ever-forward with sculpted dynamics that
give shape to the phrase, that the dances dance, and that the interpretation
as if the composer would recognize his own work. Everybody's good, but I
especially want to single out the theorbo and Baroque guitar player, Enrique
who adds tenderness to the quiet moments and spice to the lively ones.
A superior musical production like this deserves a booklet that honors it. I've
got no complaints about the content, but someone should have proofread the libretto
and its translations into French and English. The languages shift columns, sometimes
on the same page. In the middle of one number, the translation in one column
becomes the original text and then shifts back. Sometimes, a whole passage of
libretto is repeated by mistake. Pure inattention detracts from essentially a
S.G.S. (August 2012)