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GRAMOPHONE (02/2021)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

In 2008 the harpsichordist Ondrěj Macek made a valiant attempt to reconstruct Vivaldi’s lost Argippo (Prague, 1730), itself a revision of an opera premiered in Vienna earlier the same year. Adapted from Domenico Lalli’s entirely fictitious Il Gran Mogul (Naples, 1713), printed librettos survive for both productions but directly relevant musical sources have not materialised. In 2011 a complete manuscript score was found in Darmstadt that corroborates a collection of arias preserved in Regensburg, but these relate to a heavily reconfigured pasticcio prepared some time after January 1732, probably for the Venetian Antonio Peruzzi’s itinerant Italian opera troupe that toured between cities north of the Alps.

Naïve’s track-listing uses footnotes to give scant indications about the likely authorship and origins of a dozen arias. Seven arias unattributed to other composers are therefore presumably authentic Vivaldi – and several of these sound like they couldn’t be anyone else, such as Zanaida’s turbulent ‘Se lento ancora il fulmine’ and vengeful ‘Io son rea dell’ onor mio’, Silvero’s ‘Del fallire il rimorso è la pena’ and Osira’s anxious ‘Un certo non so che’. However, the bulk of the text recorded here is a motley compilation of diverse (and sometimes murky) authorship. As Reinhard Strohm’s expert booklet note explains, some arias were appropriated from operas by Pescetti, Hasse, Porpora and Vinci; others were perhaps written by Antonio Galeazzi and Andrea Fiorè.

To up the Vivaldi quotient a notch, Europa Galante kick off proceedings with the Sinfonia RV112 – led from the front by Fabio Biondi’s fleet-footed violin-playing. Spirited recitatives are delivered rapidly. The title-role is performed adroitly by Emőke Baráth, and Argippo’s courageous wife Osira is sung with assertive fioriture and focused phrasing by Marie Lys. Delphine Galou is a vociferous tour de force as the embittered antagonist Zanaida but her singing also has masterful subtlety when tackling deceptively fiendish cantilena in arias by Hasse and Vinci. Luigi De Donato conveys the distress and fury of Tisifaro, and Silvero’s resolve to own up to his deception is expressed sweetly by Marianna Pizzolato. Even if it is perplexing what this incarnation of Argippo really is from a musicological point of view, there is plenty to enjoy.

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