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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Vivaldi: La Silvia; Worden: You Us We All

07/23/2017 1:00 pm
07/23/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Besides composing hundreds of concertos for violin, etc., Antonio Vivaldi was a prolific composer of opera. A couple of dozen Vivaldi operas survive musically complete, or almost complete, and at least a couple of dozen more in fragmentary form. We know of other Vivaldi operas for which the scores are missing. I have broadcast historically informed recorded performances of many operas by "The Red Priest." He also composed a lyric stagework in the sub-genre of the pastorale: La Silvia (1721).

The widely traveled violin virtuoso came to Milan to pen a work in celebration of the birthday in the Summer of 1721 of the Empress Elizabeth-Christine of Austria. The city of Milan was then under Austrian rule. The Dramma pastorale was well received at its premiere performance there. The Silvia of its title refers to Rhea Silvia of Roman legend. She dwells in Alba Longa, as envisioned in an Arcadian past before the founding of Rome. The score of La Silvia is lost, but because Vivaldi recycled so many arias from his vast operatic output, it is possible to reconstruct most of this pastorale. An entirely plausible opening sinfonia can also be supplied. No reconstructed recitatives were included, however, when La Silvia was issued in its world premiere recording in 2000. Violinist/conductor Gilbert Bezzina lead the French period instrumental group he founded in 1984, Ensemble Baroque de Nice, with four vocal soloists. That recording was picked up for reissue by the French Ligia label in 2015 on a single silver disc. This is not the first time I have featured such a Vivaldi reconstruction. On Sunday, February 12, 2012 I presented Fabio Biondi's reconstruction of Ercole sul Termodonte (1723) in its 2012 CD release through Virgin Classics.

Ligia's La Silvia doesn't last very long in broadcast, even though it has three full acts, because there's no recitative. That leaves sufficient time for a second featured work.

Now for something very much the same, yet completely different! Think of it as baroque opera turned on its head. To be more precise, Shara Worden's You Us We All is a twenty-first century spoof on the seventeenth century court masque (think Lully). It's quite allegorical in its own crazy way. The singing characters are accompanied by BOX Baroque Orchestration X, playing baroque period instruments. Its premiere staging was at the 2013 Kampnagel Sommerfestival in Hamburg, Germany. It was subsequently staged in Amsterdam, New York City and Chapel Hill, NC. The original cast recording was also made in 2013 in Belgium for release on a single compact disc. Songwriter Shara Worden/Nova sings in the cast.