L'Olimpiade (pastiche of 16 composers), K. Gauvin, F. Gottwald, R. Basso, N. Phan, Venice Baroque Orchestra, M. Chryssikos
(released on May 29, 2012)
Naïve V 5295 | 2h03
Metastasio wrote the libretto for a new opera by Antonio Caldara, performed at the Vienna court theater in 1733. The other versions excerpted here, each for an aria (or two or three), include some of those already recorded complete elsewhere: by Vivaldi (Concerto Italiano, among many others), Pergolesi (Academia Montis Regalis), Galuppi (Venice Baroque Orchestra, the research for which led to the idea for this new recording), Cimarosa (Venice Baroque Orchestra, no recording), and a few stray arias by others here and there. Most of the versions, however -- by Johann Adolf Hasse, Giuseppe Sarti, Josef Mysliveček, Giovanni Paisiello, Davide Perez, Florian Leopold Gassmann, Tommasso Traetta, Niccolò Jommelli, Luigi Cherubini, Leonardo Leo, Niccolò Piccinni, and Domenico Cimarosa, all requiring some musicological detective work around the world to track down -- you are unlikely to hear anywhere else for the foreseeable future. The pieces were selected around the changes to the text introduced by many composers as the libretto was adapted, so that all of the aria texts actually by Metastasio are included. No one will miss the recitatives that much: the story, drawn from Herodotus and involving two romantic pairings thwarted by deception and then set aright, all in the context of the ancient Olympic games in Greece, is not all that important, the connection to a certain athletic event in London this summer notwithstanding.
The singing features two robust mezzo-sopranos (Romina Basso and Franziska Gottwald) in the male castrato roles, two sopranos (Karina Gauvin and Ruth Rosique) as the women who love them, and the light tenor Nicholas Phan as the father who offers one of the women as the prize to the winner of the games. Countertenor Nicholas Spanos supports in the role of Aminta, the tutor of one of the friends. The conducting was turned over to Markellos Chryssicos, a Greek musician who was already working on a similar project when the project was begun by the Venice Baroque Orchestra, in excellent form as always.