Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:

American Record Guide: (03/2021) 
Pour s'abonner / Subscription information


Code-barres / Barcode : 3700187670801



Outil de traduction ~ (Très approximatif)
Translator tool (Very approximate)

Reviewer: Ralp Locke

Attentive collectors may already own a recording of this opera, a work concocted by Vivaldi for Carnival season in Verona, 1735 (R 703). A previous recording under the remarkable Fabio Biondi was welcomed by John Barker (Sept/Oct 2005). Some arias (e.g., Irene’s ‘Sposa, son disprezzata’) have also been recorded separately by such fine singers as Cecilia Bartoli.

This is a “pasticcio”: the composer brought together arias from previous operas by himself or someone else and stitched them together, usually with new arias and recitatives. The aim was often to allow scheduled singers to display their special gifts. The practice was long derided by music historians and critics, obsessed by romantic-era notions of originality and composerly authority. But recent performances have demonstrated that a well-constructed pastiche can work just as effectively as an opera composed from scratch. The composers whose arias we know are incorporated here include Vivaldi himself (8), Giacomelli and Hasse (3 each), Riccardo Broschi (2), and one by Porpora that was later replaced. The surviving score in the Turin library, mainly in Vivaldi’s hand, also contains numerous new arias by Vivaldi (that is, in addition to his 8 re-used ones), but lacks music for five arias that we know were sung at the performances. Suitable numbers from operas of the period (4 arias by Vivaldi and 1 by Giacomelli) have been inserted in this recording, with the texts from Tamerlano underlaid hypothetically. The libretto by Piovene will be largely familiar to devoted lovers of Baroque opera, because Handel used it for his Tamerlano (London, 1719). Handel’s opera has been reviewed 9 times here since late 1987, and I devoted a few enthusiastic paragraphs to it in my book Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart.


I’m happy to know Vivaldi’s well-crafted  version as well, not least because the current performance is so stylish, energetic, and generally well tuned. It surely helps that the recording was made over a period of ten days (in a convent in Ravenna), rather than on the wing at a stage performance with the singers moving around and perhaps not always attending primarily to beauty and consistency of tone. As Reinhard Strohm’s authoritative booklet-essay tells us, Vivaldi borrowed numerous arias that were associated with two renowned singers of the day: the super-famous Farinelli and Vittoria Tesi. The latter was a female contralto renowned for her wide range, perfect intonation (at least early in her career), and dramatic acuity. She was sometimes called La Moretta (the Mooress) because her father was of African origin. (He was a lackey—that is, a liveried manservant—in the employ of a noted castrato.) Tesi may be the most notable early opera star of African descent. The borrowed arias are indeed demanding—many of them very showy, others slow and quite touching. The singers are nearly all up to the task. Some countertenors take roles that lie a little too low for them, in order to make sure that they can handle the highest notes. Fortunately, that is not often the case here with Filippo Mineccia, who brings real bite and flair to the title role of the Mughul (Turco-Mongol) tyrant Tamerlano,  while still maintaining solid tone, note by note—not spitting consonants out at the cost of vowels. He certainly never sounds pressed at the top end of his range. I am delighted to make his acquaintance. The four female singers are generally fine, and well differentiated in vocal quality, so one can generally tell who is singing. The two sopranos playing male roles (Marina De Liso and Arianna Vendittelli) find just the right “tone”, not overdoing the toughness and thereby spoiling the crucial beauty of voice. The two who get to play women, Sophie Rennert and Delphine Galou—listed as mezzo-soprano and contralto—have particularly rich voices. Sometimes one or another of the female singers sings a bit too fast for comfort or overdoes an aria’s emotive content, losing momentary clarity of pitch (as in the Idaspe and the Asteria on Disc 2). This would be acceptable in a performance, but could easily have been avoided in the studio sessions.


The only real disappointment is the baritone (Bruno Taddia), in the somewhat secondary role of Bajazet: his voice is quite weak on the low end, he sometimes semi-shouts (e.g., in the excellently crafted quartet, borrowed from Vivaldi’s Farnace, Disc 2, track 21), and his coloratura is huffy (see Disc 2, track 15—a superb aria of frantic despair by Giacomelli). All of the singers, Taddia included, are wonderfully communicative in the recitatives, and especially in the several instances of recitativo accompagnato: that is, recitative accompanied by fully written out orchestral figuration rather than just chord-based improvisations from the basso continuo.


The recording is Volume 65 in the “Vivaldi Edition”, and that Naive series is based on the 450 Vivaldi works that survive in manuscripts in the National University Library of Turin. I urge lovers of Baroque music to look out for other releases in the series. Among other operas of Vivaldi that have appeared in the series, I might mention Argippo, Catone in Utica, and Farnace. The 2004 Biondi recording includes an allstar cast: David Daniels, Patrizia Ciofi, Elina Garanca, Vivica Genaux, and Ildebrando d’Arcangelo—but no libretto. The new recording is offered at a sensible price, and its thick booklet includes the libretto in Italian, French, and English.


Fermer la fenêtre/Close window

Sélectionnez votre pays et votre devise en accédant au site de
Presto Classical
(Bouton en haut à droite)
Livraison mondiale

Pour acheter l'album
ou le télécharger

To purchase the CD
or to download it

Choose your country and curency
when reaching
Presto Classical
(Upper right corner of the page)
Worldwide delivery

Cliquez l'un ou l'autre bouton pour découvrir bien d'autres critiques de CD
 Click either button for many other reviews