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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Nicholas Anderson

In a Venetian periodical for January 1717 we learn that ‘The splendid Incoronazione di Dario opened with great applause.’ Understandable, for musically this is one of Vivaldi’s most captivating operas, while Adriano Morselli’s elderly libretto is effective in its revised version. The story explores a three-cornered fight for the crown, after the recent death of Persian King Cyrus. Darius is backed by governors, district commissioners and the like; young Oronte is the people’s man while army captain Arpago is supported by the militia. The victor shall marry Cyrus’s beautiful though none too bright daughter, Statira, but obstacles lie in the way of that, notably her nasty sister Argene and lustful old philosopher Niceno. All is eventually happily resolved, and all but Argene are forgiven for past obstructions and deceits.

Vivaldi’s music is beguiling right from the sparkling C major Sinfonia. Statira and Argene, both alto roles, are given arias that define their respective characters. Untypically, Vivaldi allotted the ‘primo uomo’ role of Dario to a tenor rather than a castrato. The remaining contenders for the throne are soprano roles, while Niceno is a bass. An unusual feature of his role is a little ‘cantata in scena’ which he has written for Statira to sing (Act I) while he accompanies her on a viola all’inglese (viola da gamba). Vivaldi presents his dramatic credentials with brilliance and ingenuity in L’Incoronazione di Dario. Vocal cast and instrumentalists are first-rate and all is swiftly paced under Ottavio Dantone’s direction.


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