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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Concert > The Vivaldi Edition Operas #1 (27 CD + 1 DVD Box Set/Naxos)

The Vivaldi Edition Operas #1 (27 CD + 1 DVD Box Set/Naxos)


Picture: B ††††Sound: B †††Extras: A†† Music:


Orlando Finto Pazzo A-

Juditha Triumphans A

Tito Manlio A

La Verita in Cimento A

Orlando FuriosoA

Atenaide A

Farnace A-

LíOlimpiade A

Griselda A+



With Christmas 2008 quickly approaching there are perhaps many things that a classical music fan might want, but at the top of their list should be at least one thing: The Vivaldi Edition Operas #1, released through Naxos on their NaÔve label.The set features an incredible compiling of 9 of Vivaldiís operas, including a lost piece (Farnace), plus a bonus DVD.Each opera is featured on three CDís, which are color-coordinated within the set and were previously released individually with the exception of Farnace.To really appreciate just how valuable this set is, there needs to be some explanation given.The Vivaldi Edition under its director Alberto Basso has been working with NaÔve to finally bring some adequate representation to the world of CD with Vivaldi and his work.While much of his work is lost, some of it recovered, the world is finally catching up with this master and his fuller body of work.††


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote operas at a blazing speed and itís been estimated that he wrote 90+ operas during his life, approximately 50 of those have been identified and only about 20 have survived.This is why the preservation of music is so vital, over the past 50 or so years Vivaldiís music has started becoming more mainstream, but his operas are still unfamiliar to many.This particular set not only delivers to us 9 of his operas, but also includes a beautifully assembled art book, which chronicles the music, gives a biography on each of them, and also includes some terrific photography, shows scans of the actual manuscripts, and gives the reader terrific insight into the man, the music, and the history of building this set, which all began years ago.


What that essentially amounts to is a highly valuable set that compiles some of the most important work ever written by Vivaldi altogether in one mega-set, which has been carefully recorded and mastered by Naxos/NaÔve and released in full glory here.The set also has the full librettos assembled together in another book, plus a bonus DVD is issued, which features two documentaries that run a little over 20-minutes each.The first is geared towards Vivaldi, while the other is dedicated towards the recording process and the importance behind assembling these fine works.Both are highly informative and clearly give an even further understanding and appreciation into why this set is so necessary and vital for the ongoing love of Vivaldi, and in particular his operas, which again are just now starting to infiltrate the classical marketplace.


Before getting to each opera, I wanted to spend a few moments talking about the actual recordings and their delivery onto the CD format.Lately we have really enjoyed titles being released through Naxos on various labels in the SACD format, which takes CDís to a new level with uncompressed Direct Stream Digital sound, these discs allow the user to enjoy not only a CD-layer of the recordings, but 2.0 and 5.1 mixes as well, which are in higher-resolution DSD.You can read our reviews for those titles here:


Naxos Wave One


Naxos Wave Two



Because CD offers compression and limitations since the format is only PCM stereo at 16-bit/44.1kHz it cannot compete with the best that SACD has to offer, but despite format limitations, itís vital for music to be recorded and mastered well regardless. Naxos has built a strong reputation by seeking out the best recordings and/or producing their own through various labels that itís no wonder they are the premier company in classical music.Their dedication to this business is evident by the solid and consistent product that is put forth, this box set is certainly no exception; in fact, itís the gold standard!Most of the recordings here are only a few years old, most of which took place between 2002 and 2005.They were issued in 3-disc sets for each opera, however, this set puts all of them together and includes the previously unavailable Farnace with this set, plus it includes the finest of packaging.


Here each opera is divided into three-discs, that are color coordinated for each opera and each are mastered quite well.Itís apparent very early on that each venue used for these recordings is using the finest in technology and while the CD format does limit the full potential, even with that the quality here is exceptional.One thing that I quickly noticed was that the soundstage is very wide and full, although in comparison to the SACDís weíve recently covered the mixes go beyond that with not only a wide soundstage, but a deep one as well.Because of the nature of these operas the mixes become full very frequently with a variety of voices, instruments, etc that quickly fill the two speakers, this is where things can get a bit messy in poor recordings, but not the case here.It was surprising to me just how penetrating voices cut through the mix here, and more importantly the music feels natural, balanced, and lively.While an opera is certainly a hard thing to recreate within the home due to acoustics and the dynamics that are associated with a live experience, the music re-created through these discs brings us up close and personal with the music and never hinders the experience.While SACD would certainly take this to a new level of resolution and fidelity, these recordings are quite solid and on a well-calibrated stereo system will deliver the goods.Some audiophiles might have minor complaints (especially those who still use vinyl as their primary source) that the highs and lows feel too compressed here, which is another attribute associated with CD, it is certainly true that the full spectrum of sound is truncated at times, but the expression of the music is always full, natural, and engaging despite that.††††††


Orlando Finto Pazzo is the second Italian opera by Vivaldi and was written in 1714 and is a three-act opera with libretto by Grazio Braccioli and was recorded in December 2003 in the Instituto di Musica Academia Montis Regalis in Mondovi Italy under the conduction of Alessandro De Marchi and chorusmaster Claudio Marino Moretti. Featured here is Antonio Abete (bass) as Orlando, Gemma Bertagnolli (soprano) as Ersilla, Marina Comparato (mezzo-soprano) as Tigrinda, Sonia Prina (contralto) as Origille, Manuela Custer (mezzo-soprano) as Argillano, Martin Oro (countertenor) as Decio, and Marianna Pizzolato (mezzo-soprano) as Brandimarte.


This is a fine production and quickly demonstrates Vivaldiís early talents with opera, despite being more well-known for his orchestral works.


Juditha Triumphans is an importance pieces as it is the only oratorio by Vivaldi known to survive, he is said to have written four.The oratorio translated means Judith triumphs over the barbarians of Holofernes, the libretto by Giacomo Cassetti is based upon the book of Judith from the Holy Bible.The piece was written and performed first in November 1716 in Venice and is believed to be not only his first, but his best oratorio, although not having the others to compare, itís hard to truly state this.Of course during this time Venice was also in upheaval and the story serves as an allegory for Venice defeating the Turks in Corfu, interestingly enough at its premier was the victorious General von der Schulenburg, it must have been a truly amazing experience at its premier!For this particular set, the oratorio was recorded in October 2002 at the Instituto di Musica Academia Montis Regalis in Mondovi Italy under the direction of Allessandro De Marchi and featuring Magdalena Kozena (soprano) as Juditha, Maria Jose Trullu (mezzo-soprano) as Oloferne, Marina Comparato (mezzo-soprano) as Vagaus, Anke Herrmann (soprano) as Abra, and Tiziana Carraro (mezzo-soprano) as Ozias.


Tito Manlio was written in 1719 in honor and celebration of the marriage of the governor of Mantua for Carnival and is the operatic story of Titus Manlius Torquatus, who was the consul of Rome and his conflict with t he region of Latium.This recording took place in July 2005 in Sala del Refettorio di S. Vitale of the Museo Nazionale of San Vitale with musical consultant Frederic Delamea and conductor Ottavio Dantone of the Accademia Bizantina.Itís a musical drama broken into three acts with libretto by Matteo Noris.Featured here is Nicola Ulivieri (bass-baritone) as Tito, Karina Gauvin (soprano) as Manlio, Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano) as Servillia, Marijana Mijanovic (contralto, we covered her in Handelís Orlando reviewed here) as Vitellia, Debora Beronesi (mezzo-soprano) as Lucio, Barbara Di Castri (mezzo-soprano) as Decio, Mark Milhofer (teno) as Geminio, and Christian Senn (bass-baritone) as Lindo.


La Verita in Cimento, which simply translated means Ďtruth in ordealí is Vivaldiís 13th opera, which premiered during the Carnival at Venice in 1720 and is about a father named Mamud, who had two sons to two different women.They were exchanged at birth and one is the legitimate heir to the throne, but later in life after the men have grown up and have their own paths carved for them, the truth is revealed and many twists and turns begin to emerge.The recording here took place in September 2002 under musical consultant Frederic Delamea and conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, featured here is Gemma Bertagnolli (soprano) as Rosane, Guillemette Laurens (mezzo-soprano) as Rustena, Sara Mingardo (contralto) as Melindo, Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto) as Damira, Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) as Zelim, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor) as Mamud.


Orlando Furioso another powerful musical drama in three acts with Ilatian libretto by Grazio Braccioli, and premiered in 1727 at the Teatro San Angelo in Venice, is unique in that it combines arias and recitative as we are taken to an island set in an unspecified time where the story weaves back and forth from our hero character Orlando and the tale of the sorceress Alcina.This recording took place in June 2004 in France under conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi and musical consultant Frederic Delamea.Featured here is Marie-Nicole Lemiuex (contralto) as Orlando, Jennifer Larmore (mezzo-soprano) as Alcina, Veronica Cangemi (soprano) as Angelica, Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) as Ruggiero, Lorenzo Regazzo (bass-baritone) as Astolfo, Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano) as Bradamante, and Blandine Staskiewicz (mezzo-soprano) as Medora.


Atenaide was first performed in 1928 at the Teatro Della Pergola in Florence with libretto by the Venetia poet Apostolo Zeno and was recorded here in April 2007.Another musical drama set in three acts the story involves the Byzantine empress Athenias who converts to Christianity, which then fuels rivalry between pursuers and various policatal struggles ensue, itís certainly a more formulaic piece overall as it deals with many of the common themes and elements found in much of this period, but nonetheless is memorable and refined.Featured here is Sandrine Piau (soprano) as Atenaide/Eudossa, Vivica Genaux (soprano) as Teodosio, Guillemette Laurens (mezzo-soprano) as Pulcheria, Romina Basso (mezzo-soprano) as Varane, Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto) as Marziano, Paul Agnew (tenor) as Leontino, and Stefano Ferrari (tenor) as Probo. It should be noted that this is recorded in the same theater that it premiered in nearly 300 years ago with the same acoustics, you canít say that about too many mediums! This is perhaps one of Vivaldiís most mature pieces, he revised it a few years later and his style and innovation is working at full swing here, especially the da capo aria and advanced vocal writings.††


Farnace was a lost musical drama until it has resurfaced over the past quarter of the 20th century; it first premiered at the Teatro Omodeo in Pavia with libretto by Antonio Maria Lucchini and was recorded here in 2001 at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid.Here we are introduced to the title character and King of Pontus, who has been removed and he is seeking revenge on Pompey after he believes that his wife killed herself and that he must prevent his sons from submitting themselves to the new leadership.His mother-in-law Berenice (the Cappadocian queen) is deceiving him as well as she is working with Pompey in an attempt to kill Farnace.Talk about a convoluted tale of betrayal!Featured here is Furio Zanasi (baritone) as Farnace, Sara Mingardo (contralto) as Tamiri, Adriana Fernandez (soprano) as Berenice, Gloria Banditelli (contralto) as Selinda, Sonia Prina (contralto) as Pompeo, Cinzia Forte (soprano) as Gilade, and Fulvio Bettini (baritone) as Aquilo.


LíOlimpiade is unique in that itís comprised of over 60 baroque and classical composers, Vivaldiís contribution took place in 1734 at the Teatro SantíAngelo in Venice during the Carnival with libretto by Pietro Metastasio, the story is set in ancient Greece during the Olympic games and deals with the rivalry ensuing as warriors battle to gain the love and respect of the women and the ending will finally reveal which marriages take place.The recording here is from 2002 in the Sala Accademica del Pontificio in Italy under Rinaldo Alessandrini and featuring Sara Mingardo (contralto) as Lucida, Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) as Megacle, Sonia Prina (contralto) as Aristea, Marianna Kulikova (mezzo-soprano) as Argene, Laura Giordano (soprano) as Aminta, Riccardo Novaro (baritone) as Clistene, and Sergio Foresti (bass) as Alcandro.


Griselda was first performed in 1735 in the Teatro San Samuele in Venice and is recognized as one of Vivaldiís finest operas with libretto by Apostolo Zeno and revised by Carlo Goldoni.Griselda is tested through a series of cruel trials by her royal husband, which tests not only her patience, but overall her virtue.It could be said that this is Vivaldi at his finest with his most signature of sounds pieced together in one all-out fury. This recording took place in November 2005 at the Salle Surcouf in France under conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi and featuring Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto) as Griselda, Veronica Cangemi (soprano) as Costanza, Simone Kermes (soprano) as Ottone, Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) as Roberto, Stefano Ferrari (tenor) as Gualtiero, and Iestyn Davies (countertenor) as Corrado.


The bottom line after going through hours upon hours of listening and reading is that this set is the real deal.No holding back punches, if you want Vivaldi at his operatic best, this is it!To date, there is no greater assemblage of this material and is a volume that should be added to any serious collection, it represents the best in the baroque repertoire and puts Vivaldi on the map again right where he belongs.The preservation of music is so vital and this set represents that to the fullest degree. The HIGHEST recommendation here!



-†† Nate Goss


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