Vivaldi L'oracolo in Messenia
Fabio Biondi has embarked upon a third Vivaldi opera reconstruction, following his earlier work on Bajazet and Ercole sul Termodonte. L’oracolo in Messenia was premiered in Venice in 1737, but Vivaldi’s hoped-for performances in Vienna never took place, since the theatres were closed for a year following the death of Charles VI, the Austrian Emperor, in 1740. Vivaldi himself died in Vienna the following year.
Only in 1742 was the opera staged there, with Vivaldi’s prima donna Anna Girò as the tragic and vengeful widow-queen, Merope. She is the central figure in Apostolo Zeno’s libretto, written more than 25 years earlier with music by Gasparini.
Although Vivaldi’s score is lost, several arias are known from other sources, and more recently a libretto for the Viennese version has surfaced, which sheds valuable light on Vivaldi’s revisions. The earlier Venice version was perhaps a pasticcio generously incorporating arias by Geminiano Giacomelli, while the planned revival for Vienna seems to have had music mostly by Vivaldi himself. Its character is predominantly ‘galant’, or early Classical, and several moments are of high quality. Biondi has assembled an impressive cast, with outstandingly fine contributions from Ann Hallenberg (Merope) and Vivica Genaux (Epitide, Merope’s son). It is Julia Lezhneva (Trasimede), though, who steals the show with dazzling coloratura and immense tonal precision in her second-act aria ‘Son qual nave’. On the face of it, Biondi seems effectively to have recreated a lost opera in which Vivaldi’s music, at least, features predominantly. There is much to enjoy in the singing and playing alike.