ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Giles Tomkins, Marion Newman, Carla Huhtanen, Lynne McMurty, Jason Nedecky, Colin Ainsworth; Opera in Concert; Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660211
It’s only 18 months since I last reviewed an excellent recording of Vivaldi’s Opera Griselda, played by Ensemble Matheus under Christophe Spinosi. (It picked up a prize at last year’s BBC Music Magazine awards.) Now comes another, this time from Canada in a lively version directed by Kevin Mallon. Apostolo Zeno, the early 18th-century librettist, gave new shape to the legend of Griselda, the long suffering but faithful wife of Kin Gualtiero of Thessaly. In turn, Carlo Goldoni provided Vivaldi with a modified text for the Opera’s first performance in Venice’s San Samuel theatre in 1735. An artistic and commercial success, the Opera is one of Vivaldi’s best sustained dramatic achievements. Here, the characterisation is sharply defined, both in the arias and recitatives. Mallon directs with an assured stylistic sesnse, though the sequence of recitative and arias would have benefitted from being a shade tauter. The solo cast is generally pleasing though not of such evenly sustained merit as Spinosi’s line-up. Carla Huhtanen’s Constanza is appropriately youthful, fresh sounding and Sparky, and Giles Tomkin’s Gualtiero has riveting authority if at times inclining towards bluster; but it is Marion Newman in the title role and Colin Ainsworth’s Ottone, rejected lover of Griselda, who steal the show. Vivaldi invested both roles with affecting music (though Griselda’s little Act II aria, ‘Sonno, se pur sei sonno’ has regrettably been omitted) and these singers prove responsive to it. In all, a rewarding performance and a worthwhile alternative to last year’s prize-winning version.