A Lush but Lesser-Known Vivaldi Opera

22/04/2015

 Vivaldi: La Fida Ninfa, Cetra Barockorchester Basel, Andrea Marcon (conductor), Auditorio Nacional, Madrid, 19.4.2015 (JMI)

Concert Version

Cast: 
Licori: Maria Espada
Moraste: Roberta Invernizzi
Elpina: Franziska Gottwald
Narete: Topi Lehtipuu
Osmino: Carlos Mena
Oralto: Luca Tittoto
Giunone: Romina Basso
Eolo: Ismael Arróniz

 

This opera originated as a sort of marketing operation on the part of Vivaldi. At the time he appears to have been fueling Venetian interest in his return to La Serenissima, and he accomplished it by premiering operas in nearby towns. No doubt he gladly agreed to compose this work for Verona in 1732. A year later, Vivaldi was back in Venice.

La Fida Ninfa was chosen by the Verona Academy for the opening of the Teatro Filarmonico (which later was twice destroyed and twice rebuilt). The organizers, among them Marquis Scipione Maffei, felt that the time was ideal to put to music a libretto by Maffei himself, who had contributed large sums of money for the occasion. Vivaldi was chosen as the composer.

 Maffei’s libretto is truly boring and ridiculous, full of shepherds, nymphs, jungles, mountains and rivers, where nothing really happens. To make things worse, Maffei added a final scene, unrelated to what takes place during the previous almost-three hours, featuring Juno and Aeolus, due to the fact that he was a mythology lover. Thankfully, Vivaldi was responsible for the music, and he provides some outstanding moments. The opera contains no less than 27 arias and three symphonies, plus several compositions for more than one voice.

 This concert version was performed by the remarkable Cetra Barockorchester Basel. It was an excellent performance, but Andrea Marcon had to compete with the memory of Jean Christophe Spinosi in 2008. In my opinion, Mr. Marcon offered a terrific reading in the second half of the concert, but in the first half he seemed more inclined to routine, far from the  imagination and energy shown by Spinosi seven years ago. In these concert versions that tour through several European cities, conductors are also responsible for the casting. In this regard, Marcon’s choices seemed to me less fortunate than those of some of his colleagues.

 The protagonist, La Fida Ninfa or Licori, was soprano Maria Espada. This opera provides a good means of judging a soprano’s possibilities: it has no less than six arias, some with da capos and some without them. My final impression of her is positive, but I say that without much enthusiasm. Although her voice has sufficient width and is attractive in the middle, I find her somewhat impersonal in her singing and short on vocal agility, which is very important in this repertoire.

 Another major character is Moraste, sung here by soprano Roberta Invernizzi. She is a remarkable singer, very expressive and with perfect mastery of agilities. But she lacks volume and a more attractive timbre. Obviously, over three hours the audience became used to her voice, and she received the biggest applause in the second part of the opera.

 German mezzo soprano Franziskca Gottwald was a modest interpreter of Elpina. Her voice is not particularly attractive, short on volume and weak at the bottom. In this opera, the interpreter of Elpina usually doubles in the final scene as Juno. That did not happen here, and Juno was interpreted by Romina Basso, who was extremely good. She has an attractive, well-handled voice, and is better than her colleague at the low notes. It was a pity that she did not sing Elpina as well.

 The best singing in the cast came from Carlos Mena in the part of Osmino. In recent years, he has improved dramatically and become an excellent countertenor. Osmino has just two arias but it’s enough for a good singer to steal the show, and this is exactly what Carlos Mena did, despite having to contend with the memory of Philippe Jaroussky who was Osmino seven years ago.

 Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu was fine in the part of Narete, the father of the two nymphs. Luca Tittoto offered a sonorous voice in the part of Oralto, and responded well to the requirements of Baroque style.

José M. Irurzun

 

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