Vivaldi: Il Giustino

Delphine Galou Giustino, Emőke Baráth Arianna, Silke Gäng Anastasio, Verónica Cangemi Leocasta, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro Vitaliano, Arianna Vendittelli Amanzio, Alessandro Giangrande Andronico (alto) & Polidarte (tenor), Rahel Maas Fortuna, Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone
No total timing shown (3 CDs in a jewel box with booklet in card sleeve)
Naïve OP 30571

HOW AMAZING to think that naïve’s vivaldi edition has reached volume 58! This is the 17th complete opera to be recorded and – like its predecessors – it is packed with fantastic music. The plot is typically complicated (and its denouement typically contrived) and I must confess that the more baroque opera I listen to the better I understand a friend’s insistence that Handel is quite in a class of his own when it comes to getting under the skins of his characters; it is true that Vivaldi writes happy arias, and sad ones, angry and love-dazed ones, too, but they are two dimensional representations of those emotions – his characters somehow lack personality.

In this well-paced and beautifully recorded set, the singing of the arias and ensembles (Arianna and Anastasio sing two gorgeous duetti) is mostly first rate and the playing often outstanding – I especially enjoyed the contributions of the horns. Try as I might to put it out of my mind, though, I could not avoided being irked by the fact that the repeated A sections were not so much ornamented as re-written (occasionally, frankly, beyond the abilities of the singers). Similarly the secco recitative for the most part lack any dynamism and any attempts to liven it up (such as the scene protraying the slaying of the bear) descended into the aural equivalent of ham acting…

So a mixed bag, to be honest. I think I’d probably just programme the player to omit the recit and enjoy a recital of very fine arias.

Brian Clark