Antonio Vivaldi, Bajazet (1735), Europa Galante (U.S. release on May 10)
This Bajazet is a premiere twice over. If it is the first ever recording of the work, it is also the first opera recorded by Biondi with his ensemble Europa Galante and a constellation of first-rate soloists. When Bajazet was created in Verona in 1735, Neapolitan opera had dethroned the almighty Venetian opera. No one wanted to hear suave melodies and virtuoso castrati (Farinelli, Caffarelli, Carestini) anymore; composers in fashion were named Hasse, Leo, and Vinci; Vivaldi adapted to the situation by writing a pasticcio opera, which included, according to fashion, some popular arias (actually composed by Hasse, Giacomelli, and Carlo Broschi, Farinelli' brother) with all of the recitatives and the main body of the arias by the "Red Priest," who did not hesitate to recycle his own works (Giustinio, Farnace, Semiramide, Montezuma).She found the opera itself to be of a high quality, matched by excellent singing. The cast is all mentioned as first-rate, especially Ildebrando d'Arcangelo who was "simply put, at the peak of his skills" in the title role. The DVD, she says, shows the singers in the act of recording, which is exciting. The Turkish story of Bajazet was also the subject of a tragedy by Jean Racine (Bajazet, 1672), although I don't know of any connection of that work to Vivaldi's opera. Vivaldi apparently used the same libretto, by Agostino Piovene, that Handel had used for his Tamerlano in the 1720s in London. I think that a comparison of those two operas (Tamerlano has been recorded recently by Trevor Pinnock's The English Concert) will be an interesting project. I'll report back in a few weeks.