Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Galuppi L'Olimpiade - Venice Baroque Orchestra|
Actors: Romina Basso, Filippo Adami, Furio Zanasi, Roberta Invernizzi, Mark Tucker
Director: Dominique Poulange
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Armida | Mombasa, Kenya | 03/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Olimpiade, based on a libretto by Metastasio, was put to music by many composers during the 18th Century; few have been recorded. This now is the version by Baldassare Galuppi - and it is brilliant.
The staging is exquisite; it is neither explicitly traditional nor is it modern. Think about the best Italian design, which despite its simplicity is lavish and elegant. The stage sets are simple. Imagine shades of beige and muted gold, few stylish props and hand-brushed silks. The two female protagonists, Aristea and Argene, look like roaring twenties flappers in sort-of-rococo retro dress; while the two male characters (Megacle sung by Romina Basso, Licida by Franziska Gottwald) look the way I always imagined young Werther. So, the staging actually supports the drama and doesn't distract with the kind of gimmicks that characterise so many Handel performances (Rinaldo being the worst I can think of).
As is the case with Vivaldi operas, there is a fair amount of lengthy recitatives, especially during the exposition. However, they do get shorter (and better) as the story reaches its climax. The conductor sets a brisk pace, so they are not really all that annoying. The story is one of many twists and turns, conflicting loyalties, broken hearts, attempted suicides, etc.... I will probably need to hear it a few times, before it all will make sense. But there is a last minute happy end, the lovers are reunited; and that's what counts.
The arias are magnificent; more in the style of Jommelli than of Vivaldi. Very tender adagio arias contrasted with bravura acts with breakneck coloratura. Especially enjoyable is the scene, in which both women, in consecutive arias, read the riot act to Licida, who appears suitably crest-fallen. All singers in this production deserve praise; there are no weak links.
Andrea Marcon and his Venice Baroque Orchestra provide rich and dramatic orchestral sound. The opera takes about three hours, but one hardly notices. I'm very happy to have this opera and I hope more of Galuppi's serious operas will be recorded.
On the downside, Dynamic's DVDs tend to be rather pricey; I paid about 33 Euro for the 2 DVD set (Region 2). It is really annoying that the second DVD is half empty. There are no bonus materials at all. I would have liked a feature on Galuppi or at least interviews with the conductor and the singers...
My second complaint is the subtitles. They come up at the beginning of an aria - and then you need to have a good short-term memory, because you won't see them again. Surely it wouldn't be too much to ask to show them again during the da capo parts.
The performance and the performers deserve all the stars I can give; so, no deductions. Finally: the DVD is available at Amazon France - no waiting period.
Great Music!!! Great Performance!!!
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 07/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Read carefully and take this review seriously! Baldassare Galuppi's 1747 'dramma per musica' is one of the masterworks of Baroque opera, comparable in musical attractions to the best of Handel and Vivaldi and a good deal better than most stage pieces of the era in dramaturgy. Want proof? This production by the Venice baroque Orchestra and a cast of superb singers delivers irrefutable evidence. What a contrast to the last previous opera DVD I watched and reviewed -- Handel's Semele with Cecilia Bartoli -- which demonstrated how drab a modern-dress Baroque staging can be, and how rare the ability to sing Baroque arias virtuosically still is!
Galuppi's "L'Olimpiade" had its premiere in the Teatro Ducale of Venice during carnival season. The libretto by Pietro Metastasio was already well known; it had been set first by Antonio Caldara 14 years earlier, and reset more often than any other libretto of the 18th Century, by Jomelli, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Hasse, and Donizetti, among others. It's a typical late Renaissance tale of identity switches and crossed-up loves, featuring two young men and two young women, all roles sung in this performance by female artists. Licida and Megacle are male friends, both smitten with love for the same princess, Aristea, whose father King Clistene has promised her in marriage to the victor in the sacred Olympic games. Aristea's friend is Argene, also a princess but incognito, to whom Licida has made earlier declarations of love. Megacle, the pivotal figure of this amorous quadrangle, has to choose between love and friendship. Baldassare Galuppi chose to reorder some of the scenes and cut some of the text of Metastasio's poetic drama, to the fulsome outrage of the author but to good effect. The four principal lovers are quite well individualized, both by their words and by their assigned music. They are not mere stock cartoons; they exhibit distinct passions, strengths, and weaknesses.
Structurally, L'Olimpiade is orthodox Baroque, a steady progress of recitativos and da capo arias, with instrumental entrances and exits. Galuppi's originality shows up in his use of orchestral accompaniment to the key recitativos; apparently he considered mere harpsichord continuo inadequate and affectively unreliable. The result is a tighter integration of recitativo and aria. Even more important, Galuppi's arias very skillfully match the musical affect to the tenor of the words, something that other Baroque composers occasionally neglected to do. With Galuppi, indignant words are sung to indignant melodies, sorrowing to sorrowful, languishing to languid. There is an emotional clarity, as well as an entertaining variety of moods, in L'Olimpiade, which provides the singers with opportunities for expressiveness and the audience relief from the potential monotony of one florid aria after another.
Mezzo-soprano Romina Basso, in the male role of Megacle, dominates the production, both dramatically and vocally. Her gangling, boyish postures and her "squillo" vibrancy of timbre make Megacle thoroughly a living figure tormented by two loyalties. Her 'historical' vocal technique is impeccable, and her tuning is exquisite. Soprano Ruth Rosique, as the princess Aristea, is just as fine, both dramatically and vocally. The duet between Megacle and Aristea that concludes Act One is ravishing. Ravishing? Hey, I've never used that word in a review before, so take it to heart.
Soprano Roberta Invernizzi sings Argene, the slighted love, with fine vocal fire, though her stage presence is just a bit stiff. Franziska Gottwald delivers a convincing performance as the somewhat foolish prince Licida, whose infatuation and vacillation gets everyone in trouble; she's boyish enough in gesture and posture for such a role, though her musical affect is, perhaps deliberately, limpidly effeminate. The four women principals in this cast are flawless in affect, ornamentation, and close ensemble.
Tenor Filippo Adami and basses Mark Tucker and Furio Zanasi are all perfectly proficient in their less central roles. Andrea Marcon and his Venice Baroque Orchestra have sometimes been a trifle too 'robust' for my taste -- too weighty-sounding -- but in this recording they sound exactly right. The acoustic balance between singers and orchestra is excellent; voices never get muffled, instruments on the inner lines emerge with clarity.
The staging is simple, more a matter of evocative costuming than of sets or machinery. This DVD should, I think, stand as a model of how to do Baroque opera right: make the musical values perfect, the acting as close to matching as possible, and keep the stage-effects non-distracting."
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 09/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD because of the previous two glowing reviews, and I certainly was not disappointed. Au contraire!!! Anyone who is even remotely interested in Baroque music should get it. The music and the singing is brilliant.
However, this is a baroque opera with very very long da capo arias and recitatives. As a result it is very difficult to sustain any action. The singers do their best, and they are all accomplished actors as well as exquisite singers -- but during the time the same idea is stated and restated it all becomes close to a concert performance. The plot must have been quite original at the time, having been taken up by many other composers;but in our time it does seem a bit hackneyed.
However, that is minor carping. I am very glad I bought this production. I will doubtless experience it again on numerous occasions. Take it for what it is: A glorious evening of excellently performed baroque music. I am sure that you will be entranced by it."
Why o why is this opera not better known?
wolfgang731 | 01/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For reasons unknown, this masterpiece of baroque opera has fallen into relative, if not complete, obscurity. I can't imagine why. It could easily stand alongside any of Handel's major works, as well as those of Vivaldi, Pergolesi or Hasse to many but a few contemporaries. There is so much inventiveness in the orchestral writing that it will definitely entice the ear and make certain you take notice. There are plenty of gorgeous arias for every fach known at the time and the duet that closes Act One is alone worth the price of admission, as it were; however, that's not to imply that subsequent duets aren't of equal appeal because they most certainly are. Mark Tucker seemed to struggle a bit with the florid passages in the more virtuosic arias but it's hardly even worth mentioning because, ultimately, his performance, as a whole, was a pleasure to listen to and watch. Other than the aforementioned shortcomings, everyone here excelled especially Roberta Invernizzi's Argene. This little firecracker really lights up the stage and one could hardly ask for a more brilliant vocal performance. The same is true of Ruth Rosique's impeccably delivered Aristea. Something else that I found quite refreshing was to watch a contemporary mounting of a baroque opera in actual period costumes (or variations thereof). Argene's overall look strays furthest from authenticity winking playfully at the unmistakable and incomparable image of Louise Brooks. No gun totting Armide castrating men with her teeth anywhere to be found. And guess what? Seeing singers dressed in period correct attire didn't ruin the experience one bit. It all made perfect sense to me. I guess I'm either too literal or too stupid (or an equal combination of both) to truly appreciate artistic inclinations with a conceptual and/or cerebral slant. That's okay. I've no problem being labeled anachronistic. I suppose better that than pretentious. Sadly, there are no recordings of this wonderful work currently available in the catalogue and that is a real shame because it certainly deserves the full four star treatment. Lord knows lesser works receive more auspicious support but I do believe this little jewel will one day be elevated to its rightful place in the annals of baroque opera masterpieces. Watch this and tell me if I'm exaggerating in any way."