Vivaldi: L’Olimpiade

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: L’Olimpiade
PERFORMER: Sara Mingardo, Sonia Prina, Marianna Kulikova, Laura Giordano, Riccardo Novaro, Sergio Foresti; Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30316
Last year was a veritable annus mirabilis for Vivaldi opera: Farnace (Glossa), Catone in Utica (Dynamic), three versions of Giustino (Virgin, Bongiovanni and Tactus) and, released at the turn of the year, L’Olimpiade. This is one of two surviving operas by Vivaldi with texts by Metastasio and amounts to one of his strongest dramatic ventures. The action takes place during the Olympic Games and relates to a contest between two suitors, Megacles and Lycidas, for the hand of princess Aristaea, as described by Herodotus.

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L’Olimpiade contains several arias of distinction, with three of the most arresting occurring in Act I. In one of them, Lycidas’s ‘Quel destrier’, Vivaldi responds vigorously and colourfully to Metastasio’s equine imagery. It is to Lycidas, too, that he gives the beguiling sleep aria ‘Mentre dormi’, with its skilful use of a horn. The role is entrusted to Sara Mingardo, whose full-bodied, darkly coloured voice enhances the music throughout. Then there is ‘Il fidarsi della speme’, allotted to Amyntas, tutor to Lycidas. Laura Giordano’s clear and innocent-sounding voice lends enormous charm to the piece. These are but three high points amid a wealth of irresistible music which, with an effective plot, make L’Olimpiade among the best shop windows for Vivaldi opera.

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Rinaldo Alessandrini has already proved himself a stylish and persuasive Vivaldian and here his blend of scholarship with a feeling for the music’s poetry results in a convincing account of an opera which has twice in the past been misunderstood and dramatically underpowered in commercial recordings from Nuova Era and Hungaroton. Moreover, he has cast it well, his instrumentalists are excellent and his continuo realisations are a model of propriety, yet further enlivening a fine performance.