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Vivaldi Edition: 'L'incoronazione di Dario'

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Vivaldi, L'incoronazione di Dario, A. Dahlin, S. Mingardo, D. Galou, Accademia Bizantina, O. Dantone

(released on May 27, 2014)
Naïve OP30553 | 173'54"
All of the opera releases in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition, which will eventually contain recordings of all of Antonio Vivaldi’s operas as found in the composer's manuscript collection of the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, will receive mention here at Ionarts -- most recently in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The latest one, L'incoronazione di Dario, stands out, however, for the beauty of its score and unusual libretto (in an edition put together by Stefano Aresi for Act I and Giovanni Andrea Secchi for Acts II and III). The story concerns the succession of Darius I to the throne of Cyrus as ruler of the Persian Empire. The libretto by Adriano Morselli is based on historical events but highly fanciful in its details, and at the time Vivaldi set it, for a premiere at the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice in the carnival season of 1717, it was already more than thirty years old and in a style regarded as old-fashioned. According to this recording's booklet essay by Frédéric Delaméa, Vivaldi consciously took the libretto's lead and wrote in a style that was a tribute to the previous century of Venetian opera, with a greater mixture of comic and serious and less reliance on da capo arias.

The opera opens dramatically with the ghost of Cyrus telling his daughters, Statira and Argene, to stop their mourning for him. Darius, who intends to take the throne, avoids what could easily have become a civil war by intervening in the conflict between two other pretenders, Arpago and Oronte, by suggesting that Statira's choice in marriage may decide the succession to the throne of Persia. (Darius's marriage to Cyrus's actual daughter, Atossa, is indeed part of what helped him rise to power.) The role of Statira was created for a contralto, and Sara Mingardo brings a fine chest voice to the role, her transparency of tone fitting with a character presented as not all that bright, leading even her servant Flora to mock her. Statira's tutor, the philosopher Niceno (here the slightly wobbly baritone Riccardo Novaro), repeatedly admires her "caro simplicità," although he is not able to make her see that he is also in love with her, even when he dedicates a cantata to her, which she sings in the beautiful aria "Ardo tacita amante" in Act I, with its obbligato viola all'inglese.

Swedish tenor Anders J. Dahlin is a refined but powerful Dario, even adding a fine high C# to the end of "Placami la mia bella" in Act II. Mezzo-soprano Delphine Galou is a savvy and lovely Argene, the scheming younger sister who tries to win Dario for herself but loses, ending up punished for her deceit. The role's delights include a rather brilliant and funny letter-writing scene, where Argene dictates a letter to Dario, trying to get him to understand that she is in love with him, throughout which he remains just as oblivious as Statira. The women further down the cast list are also pleasing, beginning with the sort of boyish sound of mezzo-soprano Lucia Cirilla as Oronte, a role created by a soprano castrato (in the lovely "Non mi lusinga," for example). Light soprano Sofia Soloviy has a nice turn as the other suitor, Arpago, originally a soprano trouser role, while Roberta Mameli gives a fluttery, sweet quality to the very pretty music of Alinda, who is betrothed to Oronte, including the charming pastoral aria "Io son quell'augelletto" and the tragic "A me ceppi? A me catene?." The musicians of Accademia Bizantina, all playing historical instruments, play with refinement and polish, with especially fine accompaniment of recitatives, with some passages played only by theorbo and much variety of instrumentation. This easily supplants the only previous recording, by the Ensemble Baroque de Nice, now out of print (Harmonia Mundi, 1986).

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