Vivaldi Il Giustino
Delphine Galou, Emöke Baráth, Silke Gäng, Ana Maria Labin, Ariana Vendittelli, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Alessandro Giangrande, Verónica Cangemi, Rahel Maas; Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
Naïve OP 30571 187:00 mins
Reinhard Strohm, whose edition of Vivaldi’s mid-period opera is used here, describes Il Giustino as exuberant. The composer wrote it, not for his native Venice, but for Rome where it was premiered during the 1724 carnival season. Niccolo Beregan’s 1683 libretto, set in the sixth century AD at the time of Emperor Justin I, alludes metaphorically to the defence of the Holy Roman Empire against the Ottomans. It was revised by Pietro Pariati, set by Albinoni in 1711, then by Vivaldi with adjustments, and finally, in 1737 by Handel, who clearly knew Vivaldi’s score. The opera seria ingredients of rebellion, intrigue, crossed love, jealousy and the supernatural feature in a colourful score with felicitous self-borrowings.
Ottavio Dantone’s fine cast of singers includes Veronica Cangemi (Leocasta), who will be familiar from previous appearances in Naïve’s ground-breaking series. Delphine Galou, in the title role, declaims with even-toned clarity. Exceptionally, Vivaldi provided her in Act I with an ottava rima or eight-line stanza, but without any music. Presumably, the singer was expected to improvise, but here Dantone himself has supplied the music. Exceptional, too, is an obbligato psaltery which accompanies Giustino’s ‘Ho nel petto un cor si forte’ (Act II). Arias which especially captured my fancy are Anastasia’s ‘Sento in seno’ (Act II), and Leocasta’s lyrical and beautifully ornamented A major ‘Senti l’aura che leggiera’ (Act II), which Vivaldi parodied in Farnace (1727), and in the pasticcio opera Tamerlano, or Bajazet (1735). It also provided material for the finale of a violin concerto, RV 349. Altogether, a splendid achievement.