L’Olimpiade

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Galuppi
LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: L’Olimpiade
PERFORMER: Mark Tucker, Ruth Rosique, Roberta Invernizzi, Romina Basso, Franziska Gottwald, Furio Zanasi, Filippo Adami; Venice Baroque Orchestra/Andrea Marcon; dir. Dominique Poulange (Venice, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: 33545

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If you think of Galuppi only as a master of comic opera, then the DVD of this serious work, first performed in Milan in 1748, will blow your mind. It is brilliant: the music is magnificently original and challenging; the singers are astonishingly accomplished; the orchestra is directed with great spirit and flexibility; and it has been excellently and appropriately recorded in the Malibran Theatre in Venice.

Moreover, musicologist Claire Genewein has restored the original overture and more besides. This modern performance, as with the original, is dominated by four outstanding sopranos. King Clistene is organising the Olympic Games at which the prize is his daughter Aristea (here played by Ruth Rosique).

The male friends Licida (even in the original played by a woman – in this production Franziska Gottwald) and Megacle (originally a castrato – here sung by Romina Basso) vie for her. After much nonsense Megacle gets Aristea, and Licida the Cretan princess Argene (Roberta Invernizzi). Basso and Invernizzi are particularly superb, going well beyond mere technique.

In Basso’s Act II aria, ‘Son qual’, for example, we are presented with a kaleidoscope of daunting embellishments, long held pianissimo high notes, and wide scalic runs, all delivered with tremendous skill, varied expression and passionate projection.

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The orchestra is thrilling and involved throughout the opera, though the pace is sometimes a little too brisk – as in Clistene’s (Mark Tucker’s) aria ‘So, ch’è fanciullo’ (marked Andante). The scenery, direction, and filming are restrained, not to say a little unimaginative, and the DVD has no extras, but the fantastic music and the highly skilled performers carry the day.