Saturday 19 May 2012

The Olympics – an opera

Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) was an Italian poet and melodramatist but what has he got to do with the Olympics?

Well he had an interest in Greek Tragedy and studied classical authors, as well as translating and commenting on Aristotle and Horace. More to the point, he wrote an opera libretto L’Olimpiade, set at the very first Olympic Games.

More than thirty composers set this libretto to music including Pergolesi, J C Bach, Arne and Vivaldi. It was quite normal in the 18th century for composers to use the same libretto. Composers also tended to adapt their music to the demands of the particular theatre and singers. Vivaldi would often merely add to his score by pasting over a piece of paper. The overture to L’Olimpiade was slightly lengthened in this way.

If a singer had a different range to that written in the score things became slightly more complicated, often resulting in an aria being replaced as well as more extended passages of recitative. There again, if a character was only one of a number of singers he would merely ink in the notes in vertical alignment with the original notes.

Vivaldi’s L'Olimpiade is an opera in three acts premiered in Venice at the Teatro Sant'Angelo on 17 February 1734.

If you can still get a ticket, you can catch a concert performance of this opera by La Serenissima directed by Adrian Chandler at the Lufthansa Festival of Barogue Music at St. Johns Smith Square, London tonight (Saturday 19th May 2012) at 7.00pm. This is billed as the UK premiere of the work.

Alternatively, on 3rd, 5th, 9th, 14th, 22nd and  29 June 2012 Garsington Opera are producing Vivladli’s L’Olimpiade conducted by Laurence Cummings . Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Wormsley Estate, home of the Getty family, in an expanse of rolling parkland, complete with lake and deer, secluded  by the wooded slopes that enclose it, this is the ideal opera venue.

If you can’t get to either, or just want a recording of L’Olimpiade, then Rinaldo Alessandrini with his vibrant Concerto Italiano on Opus 111 can provide the answer.

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