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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Vivaldi: Orlando Furioso (1714 version)

10/13/2013 1:00 pm
10/13/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

We know him today as the violin virtuoso and author of The Four Seasons and other concertos. Yet Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was one of the most prolific composers of Italian opera in music history. At least twenty complete operas of his survive in manuscript or print, and he co-wrote or ghost-wrote even more, upping the total to more like 38--and maybe as high as 67, including works in fragmentary condition. 

The vast bulk of Vivaldi's opera scores is preserved in the Italian National Library in Turin. The French Naïve label has drawn upon those riches in its Vivaldi Edition. Over the past few years I have programmed Vivaldi operas in the Naïve/Opus 111 line Treasures of the Piedmont. One of the best in the series is Orlando Furioso (1727), which I broadcast on Sunday, June 12, 2005. 

In the Biblioteca Nazionale there exist numerous fragments of an earlier version of Orlando from 1714. This would have been Vivaldi's third opera. It seems he at first contributed arias to an ur-version of this work, largely composed by Giovanni Alberto Ristori for the Venice Carnival of 1713. After Ristori left town, Vivaldi essentially rewrote the entire opera for his own 1714 production. Then, thirteen years later, he drastically expanded and improved upon the 1714 Orlando. The transformations of this opera are witnessed in a confusing batch of borrowings and rewrites of previously composed numbers.

Vivaldi specialist Federico Maria Sardelli has reconstructed the 1714 version of Orlando Furioso. He directs the period instrument players of Modo Antiquo and a cast of seven singers in the 2012 release of the opera on two Naïve compact discs, constituting volume 53 in the series Tesori dei Piemonte. Another one of those reconstructions went over the air on Sunday, February 12, 2012: Ercole sul Termodonte (1723), as prepared in critical edition by Fabio Biondi, and recorded through the Virgin Classics label.