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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Vivaldi: Catone in Utica

11/17/2013 1:00 pm
11/17/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

My Vivaldi opera broadcast series continues this month, showcasing the latest three-CD package from the French label Opus 111 in its series "Treasures of the Piedmont," volume 55, issued just this year. This broadcast series was made possible because our station continues to receive all the newly recorded Vivaldi operas Opus 111 has brought out over the past several years. 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 thirty eight-maybe as high as sixty seven, including works in fragmentary condition. A vast bulk of Vivaldi's opera scores is preserved in the Italian National Library in Turin. The earlier, 1714 version of Orlando Furioso, broadcast on Sunday, October 13th, presented a convincing reconstruction of one of those fragmentary scores. A masterwork he penned later on in the full blossoming of his career was Catone in Utica (1737). The last two of its three acts are complete. The first act and overture are entirely missing. Vivaldi was constantly plagiarizing himself, so a lot of the missing aria numbers can be deduced from his other opera scores.

Musicologist Alessandro Ciccolini has skillfully reconstructed act one and supplied an entirely plausible opening sinfonia derived from another Vivaldi opera L'Olimpiade (1734). Ciccolini composed convincingly "period" recitative passages of his own to fill in the gaps. A renouned interpreter of baroque opera, conductor Alan Curtis, prepared the critical performing edition of Ciccolini's complete restored Catone in Utica. Curtis directs the period instrument ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, with six vocal soloists, all of them well versed in producing the florid embellishments of baroque operatic singing practice.