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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Vivaldi: Giustino, Act Three; A Meditation on Christ’s Nativity

12/10/2017 1:00 pm
12/10/2017 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The story of Antonio Vivaldi’s Giustino opera is very nearly the same as Handel’s Giustino (1737), a recording of which was aired on this program on Sunday, April 14, 1996. The story is set in the Byzantine empire, the Eastern or Greek half of the former Roman empire. Giustino is a humble ploughboy who has an intimation of a glorious fate that awaits him. He follows a path from rags to riches. He wins fame as well through a series of heroic exploits, among them killing a bear and thereby saving a noble lady in distress. He saves her a second time from being devoured by a sea monster. In Act Three he foils a plot against the reigning emperor of Byzantium. Giustino discovers that he is of royal birth. In the end he is exalted as co-emperor.

It is, after all, Advent, the pre-Christmas period of expectation, so on this second Sunday in Advent the programming turns in the direction of seasonal choral music. The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge has long held an international reputation for its excellence in upholding the traditions of Anglican church music. That excellence has long been maintained by St. John’s distinguished choral director George Guest. The choir has been much recorded. One of several of their recordings of Christmas music is A Meditation on Christ’s Nativity, taped in 1967 in the chapel of St. John’s College. The program of carols and readings is set up like a festive service of Evensong. The British Decca label reissued the Meditation in compact disc format in 2017.