Vivaldi: Catone in Utica
Catone in Utica was premiered in Verona in 1737 and was well received. Here, in this latest instalment for Naïve’s ongoing Vivaldi Edition, the seemingly indefatigable Alan Curtis directs with liveliness and stylistic assurance, and the cast could hardly be bettered. The opera survives incomplete, but this is a fascinating and apt reconstruction and there is some marvellous stuff here.
An introductory sinfonia and the entire first act are lost, but what has survived is mainly impressive, often with a strong musical slant towards the new and ever increasingly popular Neapolitan style of Pergolesi, Vinci and others. Alessandro Ciccolini has reconstructed a first act, drawing music from other Vivaldi dramas and newly composing all the recitative and most of the arias whose musical substance derives from opening ritornellos of concerto movements.
Metastasio’s drama concerns a pocket of resistance to Julius Caesar after his victory over Pompey. Roman senator Cato, his daughter Martia and Pompey’s widow, Emilia, have been given safe haven by Prince Arbace in the Tunisian town of Utica. Love, intrigue and a treacherous plot that fails play their part in the unfolding of a libretto earlier set by three other composers and now adjusted to suit Vivaldi’s needs and public sensibilities.
This recording includes outstanding contributions from Roberta Mameli (Caesar), Ann Hallenberg (Emilia), Sonia Prina (Martia) and Topi Lehtipuu (Cato). Among the best of the arias are Caesar’s ‘Se mai senti spirarti sul volto lieve’ (Act II), ‘Sarebbe un bel diletto’ (Act III), and Emilia’s ‘Nella foresta’ (Act III) with its resonant horn accompaniment.