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GRAMOPHONE (07/2014)
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Reviewer: David Vickers


The plot of L’incoronazione di Dario (1717) revolves around three rival claimants to the throne of Persia. The shrewd lord Dario, the conceited nobleman Oronte and the gung-ho soldier Arpago agree to lay their arms aside and instead compete to woo the late king Cyrus’s eligible but amusingly naive daughter Statira – whose considerably smarter younger sister Argene wants Dario (and the throne) for herself. Vivaldi’s choice of a mischievous libretto that was already 33 years old was probably obscured because the Venetian public were promised ‘many masks and sumptuous costumes’.


Vivaldi’s score is performed with a commendable balance of vigour and finesse by a fine cast led by tenor Anders Dahlin (who sings Dario admirably but does not have any of the opera’s most memorable arias). Statira’s finest music is sung eloquently by Sara Mingardo in partnership with compelling instrumental contributions: a viola all’inglese (ie bass viol) forms a gorgeous obbligato companion to Mingardo’s ardent singing in ‘L’adorar beltà che piace’, which generates a touching irony because it is presented as a love cantata composed by the old man Niceno, who secretly yearns for her. The loveliest moment in Act 2 is when Statira tries clumsily to declare love to Dario in ‘Se palparti in sen’; Mingardo’s delectably murmured singing is accompanied by recorders doubling muted violins and a pizzicato bass-line. There is more rapturous love music in Act 3’s ‘Sentirò fra ramo e ramo’, with Mingardo’s breezy alto in dialogue with concertante violin and cello. Other cast members are routinely excellent, including Delphine Galou’s scheming Argene, Roberta Mameli’s affronted Alinda (Oronte’s jilted fiancée) and Riccardo Novaro’s hapless Niceno. Some scenes are blatantly humourous, such as the trumpetladen opening of Act 3 (‘Col splendour del sacro Alloro’), during which arch-rivals Oronte and Arpago simultaneously turn up adorned ostentatiously with crowns and sceptres. Ottavio Dantone’s astute pacing of the anti-heroic comedy and Accademia Bizantina’s crystalline playing mean that this new instalment in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition is more consistently accomplished than Gilbert Bezzina’s pioneering recording (long overdue an adequately documented reissue from Harmonia Mundi – 12/86, nla).

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