LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: L’Incoronazione di Dario
PERFORMER: John Elwes, Gerard Lesne, Henri Ledroit, Michel Verschaeve; Nice Baroque Ensemble/Gilbert Bezzina
CATALOGUE NO: HMA 1901235/37 Reissue
First issued over ten years ago, this recording of L ‘incoronazione di Dario remains one of the most satisfying performances of a Vivaldi opera on disc. It’s a good piece too, with a libretto that holds together tolerably well. The story is set in the fifth century BC at the Persian court. The death of King Cyrus prompts a three-cornered fight for the crown; Darius supported by the governors, Oronte the people’s man, and Arpago who is backed by the militia. This, together with an almost obligatory love element, provided Vivaldi with an opportunity to write a wide variety of arias in a richly lyrical vein, as well as demonstrating, in his choice of obbligato instruments, his sensitive feeling towards colour. One is delicately accompanied by a viola da gamba, another features a bassoon, while a third affords prominence to Vivaldi’s own instrument, the violin.
The cast is strong, with tenor John Elwes in the title role. While the three female roles are sung by countertenors, the two princes, who are Darius’s rivals to the throne, are sung by sopranos. All is directed with enthusiasm by Gilbert Bezzina who paces the drama effectively. Nicholas Anderson