VIVALDI Motezuma Curtis

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ANTONIO VIVALDI

Motezuma
Vito Priante · Marijana Mijanovic
Roberta Invernizzi · Maite Beaumont
Romina Basso · Inga Kalna
Il Complesso Barocco
Alan Curtis
Int. Release 14 Feb. 2006
3 CDs / Download
0289 477 5996 6 3 CDs DDD AH3
ARCHIV Produktion
Alan Curtis conducts the world-premiere recording of Vivaldi’s rediscovered opera


Lista de temas

CD 1: Vivaldi: Motezuma, RV 723

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
Motezuma, RV 723

Sinfonia

1.
0:00
2:29

3.
0:00
1:03

Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Act 1

Vito Priante, Marijana Mijanovic, Roberta Invernizzi, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Roberta Invernizzi, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Maite Beaumont, Vito Priante, Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Romina Basso, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Roberta Invernizzi, Romina Basso, Maite Beaumont, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Roberta Invernizzi, Romina Basso, Vito Priante, Marijana Mijanovic, Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Tiempo total de reproducción 1:16:59

CD 2: Vivaldi: Motezuma, RV 723

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
Motezuma, RV 723

Act 2

Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Maite Beaumont, Romina Basso, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Maite Beaumont, Vito Priante, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Maite Beaumont, Marijana Mijanovic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Inga Kalna, Maite Beaumont, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Vito Priante, Alan Curtis

Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Roberta Invernizzi, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Marijana Mijanovic, Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Tiempo total de reproducción 1:03:40

CD 3: Vivaldi: Motezuma, RV 723

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
Motezuma, RV 723

Act 3

Romina Basso, Maite Beaumont, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Vito Priante, Alan Curtis

Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Vito Priante, Alan Curtis

Inga Kalna, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Romina Basso, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Marijana Mijanovic, Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Maite Beaumont, Romina Basso, Marijana Mijanovic, Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Maite Beaumont, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Maite Beaumont, Romina Basso, Marijana Mijanovic, Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Vito Priante, Marijana Mijanovic, Inga Kalna, Roberta Invernizzi, Maite Beaumont, Romina Basso, Alan Curtis

Roberta Invernizzi, Inga Kalna, Maite Beaumont, Romina Basso, Marijana Mijanovic, Vito Priante, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis

Tiempo total de reproducción 54:06

. . . this opera is one of his most exotic and ambitious . . . It has been reconstructed and edited by Alan Curtis, who has also hired outstanding soloists for this landmark recording of a work whose great demands of its musicians are thrillingly rewarded.

It is a pretty enjoyable Baroque opera experience . . . Alan Curtis directs an assured and stylish performance, thoroughly convincing in its dramatic approach . . . much care has been taken to ensure it gets a vital delivery. The younghish cast give strong vocal accounts of themselves . . . So many 'real' Vivaldi operas are appearing on disc right now that this partly concocted one may seem a luxury, yet for sheer quality of music and performance it gives nothing but pleasure.

In an exemplary presentation, Alan Curtis pays tribute to Jean-Claude Malgoire whose conjectural pasticcio and recording of ¿Motezuma¿ 14 years ago used the same overture and final chorus as the present version . . . Curtis has assembled a vocally accomplished cast. Motezuma, a bass role, is sung with resonant authority by Vito Priante while that of Mitrena, his wife, is projected with feminine charm by Marijana Mijanovic . . . Roberta Invernizzi in the role of Teutile, their daughter, is experienced in Baroque style . . . The instrumentalists of Il Complesso Barocco are on excellent form as indeed is Vivaldi himself in a rewarding score.

Curtis and his Complesso Barocco are by now well versed in the operatic music of this period and it almost goes without saying that, from the point of view of the performance, this is a very fine issue indeed. The American conductor invites his listeners to ignore 'the notion that Vivaldi's (vocal) writing is incorrigibly instrumental and that his dramatic sense is nearly nil' . . . Vito Priante makes light of Motezuma's blustering coloratura and presents pride and vindictiveness . . . Roberta Invernizzi and Romina Basso are entirely charming as the lovers Teutile and Ramiro, but the star of the set is the gorgeous Spanish mezzo Maité Beaumont in the role of the tyrannical invader, Fernando. Beaumont's tone seems to grow in lustre with every recording ¿ she sounds like a half-way 'house' between Teresa Berganza and Cecilia Bartoli; I can't think of higher praise ¿ and is equal to all the bravura and expressive demands of the music . . . with these singers, the music flies. Committed Vivaldians shouldn't hesitate.

Alan Curtis provides expert direction to a strong group of instrumentalists, and the relatively unknown singers provide vivid characterizations . . . abundant Vivaldian charms, real and fabricated . . .

Violinist Giuliano Carmignola plays with a polish that strikes some listeners as breathtaking . . . Andrea Marcon's Venice Baroque Orchestra plays with as much assurance as the soloist.

The performance is superb . . . since Alan Curtis demonstrates convincingly that Vivaldi's operas can carry a high-octane charge without resorting to the infuriatingly exaggerated mannerisms perpetrated by many of his younger contemporaries in Italy and France. Throughout, the drama is conveyed with fervent intensity, now smoldering, now bursting into flame with a barely concealed passion that never threatens to transcend idiomatic style . . . his singers delivering it with an attention to detail that makes every word relevant . . . there's far more than enough to suggest that it is one of Vivaldi's strongest and most original operas. All those concerned with its rebirth deserve the heartiest thanks and congratulations.

In der Kategorie "Oper und Operette" gehören gleich zwei Vivaldi-Werke zu den ausgezeichneten Produktionen: "Motezuma" mit Il Complesso Barocco unter Alan Curtis . . . .

Kaum ist die Partitur entdeckt worden, liegt bereits eine Gesamtaufnahme vor . . . Ganz vollständig ist das in Berlin aufgetauchte Manuskript allerdings nicht, eine Herausforderung für den Violinisten und Musikologen Alessandro Ciccolini, Fehlendes zu ergänzen. Das gelang ihm so überzeugend, dass es nicht möglich ist festzustellen, wo Vivaldi endet und Ciccolini beginnt . . . An Alan Curtis Dirigat fasziniert . . . die dramatische Verve seiner Orchesterführung, mit der es ihm gelingt, die manchmal überlangen, bis zu zehnminütigen Rezitative mit Spannung aufzuladen . . . Herausragend der frische, agile Mezzo der jungen Maite Beaumont als Fernando und die virtuose Koloraturakrobatik von Inga Kalna als mexikanischer General Asprano.

Operfreundin Donna Leon weiß was und erzählt es dem Dirigenten Alan Curtis: In Berlin sind 2002 das Libretto und Teile der verschollenen Partitur von Vivaldis später Oper "Motezuma" aufgetaucht. Ein Goldfund, wie sich zeigt, doch mit Polieren ist es nicht getan. Komponist Ciccolini rekonstruiert das 1733 uraufgeführte Drama per Adaption älterer Arien und mit 13 neuen Rezitativen kongenial. Curtis und sein Complesso Barocco weben einen straffen, verhalten federnden Grund für große Stimmen. Stiftet Prinzessin Roberta Invernizzi später helle Freude, so lässt uns Aztekinfürstin Marijana Mijanovic schon zu Beginn staunend niederknien.

Musikalisch . . . erweist ¿Motezuma¿ einmal mehr die vitale, bühnentaugliche Imaginationskraft Vivaldis. Zumal Alan Curtis für diese Einspielung auf ausgezeichnete Solisten bauen konnte. Vito Priante verleiht der Titelpartie zwischen Trotz, Zweifel und Depression changierende Bassfarben, Marijana Mijanovic . . . steuert als Mitrena eine makellos fokussierte, dunkel timbrierte Mezzo-Stimme bei. Inga Kalna liefert in der Rolle des mexikanischen Generals Asprano ein Kabinettstück der Vivaldi¿schen Koloraturkunst. Romina Basso zeichnet ein berührendes Porträt des zwischen Gefühl und Gehorsam schwankenden Gegenspielers Ramiro. Auch die Partien des Fernando und der Teutile sind mit Maite Beaumont und Roberta Invernizzi kongenial besetzt. Die stets atmende, federnde und delikat nuancierende Musizierhaltung von Il Complesso Barocco trägt die Sängerinnen und Sänger auf Händen und sorgt dafür, dass sogar Rezitativ-Dialoge von bis zu achteinhalb Minuten Länge nie öde wirken. Eine Pionierleistung mit Referenzcharakter.

Unter der Leitung von Alan Curtis hat sich ein formidables Ensemble für diese Einspielung zusammengefunden. Sein Spezialorchester "Il Complesso Barocco¿ spielt wie immer frisch und temperamentvoll auf, ohne dabei in übertriebene Eile zu verfallen. Curtis weiß mit seinem Klangkörper umzugehen, und lässt in den richtigen Momenten mit kräftigen Muskeln spielen, kann aber auch zurückgenommen und seidig zart aufspielen lassen . . . Mit Vito Priante hat Curtis auf einen erfahrenen Sänger zurückgegriffen, der bereits in anderen Aufnahmen eine sehr gute Figur gemacht hat. Der Motezuma scheint ihm nachgerade auf den Leib geschrieben zu sein. Da präsentiert sich ein Mann von ungezügelter Kraft, dessen Jähzorn ihn unberechenbar macht. Er kann gleichermaßen toben, donnern, fluchen wie auch eine gebrochene Persönlichkeit mit schmerzerfüllter Stimme verkörpern, gezeichnet vom Leid und ratloser Verzweiflung. Mit markiger und schön geführter Stimme ist er der Glanzpunkt dieser Einspielung. Als Motezumas Gattin Mitrena wurde die Altistin Marijana Mijanovic verpflichtet. Es ist eine Freude dieser kraftvollen Stimme mit satter Tiefe zu folgen. Ein lautmalerischer Höhepunkt der Oper ist zweifelsohne das Kampfterzett, in dem Motezuma und Fernando die Klingen kreuzen und Mitrena als Zuschauerin heftig mitfiebert . . . Ramiros Geliebte Teutile ist Roberta Invernizzi. Ihre große Arie im zweiten Akt "Un guardo, oh dio!¿ ist ein Muster an Leidensfähigkeit und Selbstaufgabe. Ein schillernder Mosaikstein in diesem Intrigenspiel um Macht und Liebe ist die obligatorische Dienerfigur Asprano, gesungen von der Sopranistin Inga Kalna. Sie bleibt weit mehr als nur eine nette Ergänzung. Locker und frisch meistert sie ihre vier Arien.

Laut Curtis ist "Motezuma" die "dramatischste Oper Vivaldis". Dafür sorgt alleine schon der Text . . . Aber auch die Musik ist von einem dramatischen Grundton bestimmt. Diesen greift Curtis, der bei den Rezitativen selbst am Cembalo sitzt, dann auch mit seinen Instrumentalisten auf. Die deutlich betonte Continuo-Gruppe sorgt mit ihrem erregt rhythmischen Spiel für Spannung . . . Auch die fein austarierte Stufendynamik zwischen Forte und Piano ist ganz dem Drama verpflichtet . . . Ein optimales Klangbild, breit und transparent, rundet eine gelungene CD-Premiere ab.

Nun hat Alan Curtis das Werk für die Deutsche Grammophon mit seinem famosen Complesso Barocco und hochmögenden Solisten eingespielt. Aber nicht nur das: Er hat die Azteken-Oper, die sich handlungsmäßig nicht von der Dutzendproduktion jener Jahre unterscheidet, aufpoliert und ergänzt. Denn von den 28 Musiknummern sind nur 17 erhalten. Also mußten passende Vivaldi-Arien (davon gibt es genügend) gefunden und mit neuen Rezitativen verbunden werden. Das ist vorzüglich gelungen, Curtis legt auch akribisch Zeugnis über seine Vorgehensweise ab.

Unterdessen hatte sich der auf barocke Opern spezialisierte amerikanische Cembalist und Dirigent Alan Curtis zusammen mit dem Barockgeiger und Musikologen Alessandro Ciccolini an die Rekonstruktion der insgesamt neun fehlenden Nummern und an die Erstellung des Aufführungsmaterials gemacht. Diese Version nahm er mit seinem bewährten Ensemble Il Complesso Barocco und einem erstklassigen Sängerensemble im vorigen November auf, und diese Produktion . . . wirkt keineswegs wie ein Schnellschuß. Daran haben die klangtechnischen wie künstlerischen Qualitäten der Aufführung großen Anteil, da Curtis das musikalische Geschehen trotz teilweise überlanger Rezitative im Fluß hält. Dem recht beweglichen und in seiner e-Moll-Trauerarie über den drohenden Verlust von Tochter und Reich expressiv beeindruckenden Vito Priante in der Titelpartie steht in der für einen Altkastraten geschriebenen Rolle des Fernando die junge Mezzospranistin Maite Beaumont als ideologisch verhärteter, aber gesanglich geschmeidiger Fernando gegenüber. Ebenso bemerkenswert sind die junge Inga Kalva als virtuoser Aztekengeneral Asprano, Roberta Invernizzi als hart geprüfte Motezuma-Tochter Teutile und der Mezzo Romina Basso als ihr Liebhaber Ramiro, Motezumas Bruder. Daß Vivaldis Musik nicht nur mit ihren glitzernden Kaskaden der Wut- und Freudensausbrüche besticht, sondern gelegentlich schon in Händelsche Gefühlstiefen eindringt, vermittelt am stärksten Marijana Mijanovic als Aztekenkönigin Mitrena. Ausgezeichnete Einführungstexte und ein viersprachig abgedrucktes Libretto runden den überaus positiven Eindruck dieser Edition ab . . . Diese Oper gehört zu den stärksten des Komponisten . . .

Die Ersteinspielung dieser Fassung (Archiv / Universal) mit Il Complesso Barocco und Alan Curtis ist verdienstvoll . . . [man kann] Maite Beaumont in ihrer ersten großen Barock-Partie auf Platte erleben ¿ und so schöne junge Stimmen wie Romina Basso als Ramiro und Inga Kana als mexikanischer General Asprano.

Das Ergebnis ist ohne Einschränkung überzeugend.

Quelle musique . . .! Ivresse rythmique époustouflante de «S'impugni la spada» avec deux cors de chasse; défi au langage napolitain avec «D'ira a furor armato», où la trompette naturelle rivalise brillamment avec le soprano; trio étrange «A battaglia, a battaglia», mélange complexe de rythmique guerrière et de délicatesse galante. Et quels récitatifs! . . . Alessandro Ciccohni, violoniste et ici leader du Complesso Barocco, s'est frotté aux airs manquants: sa proposition tient du génie . . . Difficile aussi, pour les récits reconstitués, de deviner quand la main du réviseur se substitue à la plume de Vivaldi. Excellent plateau vocal, enfin . . . Marijana Mijanovic, qui pouvait tout oser, drappe [Mitrena] de souffrance et de majesté, comme dans l'accompagnato «Ed ho cor di soffrir» . . . Maité Beaumont, mezzo-soprano énergique et agile, campe un Fernando dominant, de taille à affronter le Motezuma coloré, théâtral et orgueilleux de Vito Priante . . . Alan Curtis dirige un Complesso Barocco plein de couleurs et de matière, traité avec fermeté, équilibre et générosité. Une réussite convaincante.

. . . Vito Priante done au souverain mexicain une stature passionnante, aidé par un chant rageur et volontairement faillible . . . Hernan Cortez trouve en Maite Beaumont un mezzo ductile et séducteur. Chacun des six personnages bénéficie d'ailleurs d'une distribution de luxe . . . Son orchestre joue des couleurs et des oppositions d'affects avec une aisance remarquable. Merci à eux : ce "Motezuma" est un nouvel indispensable dans l'univers vivaldien.

. . . la música no sólo puede contarse entre lo mejor de Vivaldi, sino que sorprende por su solidez y la penetrante psicología demostrada por el compositor, que recrea con gravedad y una angustia latente el drama del monarca conquistado, a punto de perder su reino . . . impagable Marijana Mijanovic, como siempre . . . este tapiz de bellísimas sonoridades, finamente tejido por Il Complesso Barocco . . . Moctezuma resulta tan deleitosa que hasta puede perdonársele a Vivaldi la licencia del inesperado final feliz.

El mérito de Ciccolini estriba en la formidable versatilidad que ha puesto en práctica a lo largo de una de las tareas más extenuantes y comprometidas que pueda realizar un músico. ... el ejemplo más emocionante lo hallamos en el aria "Tace il labbro", de Ramiro ..., cuya letra "Aunque me calle, mi corazón y mi mente hablan por sí mismos" ha fructificado en una música que sale a borbotones ensortijando la voz y la orquesta con una inspiración sublime.

Motezuma ... cuenta con momentos verdaderamente inspirados, a los cuales el veterano Alan Curtis ... sabe sacar el maximo partido. ... Marijana Mijanovic ... sigue en perfecto estado de gracia. ... el disco me parece recomendable.

    Unearthing a Treasure

The Rediscovery of Motezuma

Until recently, the only surviving trace of Vivaldi's opera Motezuma was Luigi Giusti's libretto. Then, in 2002, the Hamburg musicologist Steffen Voss made a spectacular find while searching for lost works by Handel in the archive of the Berlin Sing-Akademie (the music society that in 1829 organized Mendelssohn's famous performance of J.S. Bach's rediscovered St. Matthew Passion). The society's archive, assembled around 1800 by Carl Friedrich Zelter, was long thought to have been lost in World War II: it had, in fact, been taken to Kiev at the end of the war and was not re-discovered and identified until 1999. Now restored to its rightful home - since 2001 it has been housed in the Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek) - this archive holds parts of C.P.E. Bach's music library, itself a treasure trove containing the Alt-Bachisches Archiv (J.S. Bach's own compilation of music by his elder family members) as well as music by Hasse, Graun, Heinichen and Telemann.

In the course of his research in the archive, Voss came across a manuscript featuring an anonymous annotation on the first page: "La Poesia di questa opera è del Ill[ustrissimo] Giusti, la Musica di D[on] Ant. Vivaldi" ("The poetry of this opera is by the illustrious Giusti, the music by the priest Antonio Vivaldi"). Voss noticed that the paper has a common Venetian watermark and determined that the music was written by a copyist known for a transcription of Vivaldi's cantata Geme l'onda che parte dal fonte (RV 657) and a copy of Leonardo Leo's opera Catone in Utica (Venice, 1729; now at the Royal Academy of Music in London). Upon comparing the contents of the Berlin manuscript with the libretto of Motezuma, Voss realized that he had rediscovered Vivaldi's long-lost opera.

It is a mystery how a secondary copy of Vivaldi's opera came to Berlin. We know that J.S. Bach admired Vivaldi's L'estro armonico, the violin concertos published at Amsterdam in 1711, but we can only speculate as to whether a member of the Bach family might actually have been interested in looking at one of the Italian composer's operas in manuscript. The Berlin Sing-Akademie's archive contains music collected from numerous different sources, and thus the provenance of the Motezuma manuscript remains uncertain. Vivaldi's opera originally contained 28 numbers, while the incomplete Berlin manuscript contains only 17 (including all of Act II and important arias in Acts I and III). Even so, Motezuma is unquestionably one of the most exciting and significant Vivaldi discoveries since the composer's personal collection of manuscripts was reunited at Turin in the 1920s. Performers and scholars are now faced with the challenge of reconstruction and the composition of a large amount of missing recitative.

The Libretto

Motezuma was probably the last original libretto written for Vivaldi, who between 1734 and his final operatic project in 1739 relied on existing texts by such authors as Zeno, Piovene, Salvi, Metastasio and Stampiglia. Some surviving copies of the libretto are attributed to a Girolamo Giusti, but he is probably identical with the poet Alvise - otherwise known as Luigi - Giusti (Alvise is the Venetian form of the name Luigi). Born into an impoverished Venetian family, Giusti (1709-1766) studied at Padua and was a member of Apostolo Zeno's literary circle. He left Venice in 1734 to work for the Habsburg government at Milan, where he joined the Accademia dei Filodossi and helped to achieve administrative reforms in Lombardy. If Luigi Giusti was indeed the librettist of Motezuma, Vivaldi was cunning to return to the Venetian stage with the work of a promising young poet from a respectable old Venice family, and with a libretto that contained unconventional, exotic subject matter and such opportunities for theatrical spectacle as battles, water, fire and the threat of human sacrifices.

Giusti's text is loosely based on the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés (Fernando) and emphasizes the downfall of the Mexican emperor Montezuma (Motezuma). Giusti incorporated some historical details, although in his foreword to the libretto he sardonically hinted at his mistrust of the sources. A strong dose of artistic licence was taken in devising incidents that "serve to assist the necessities of the stage". The action is set in the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlán, which Cortés entered on 8 November 1519. The Spanish conquistadors and the Mexicans veered between hostility and displays of friendship, but after some months the fighting intensified and Montezuma was killed on 27 June 1520. According the lieto fine convention of Baroque opera, however, history is rewritten in a sentimental manner: Montezuma and Fernando are reconciled through the marriage of the Mexican's daughter (Teutile) to the Spaniard's brother (Ramiro).
Although the New World was not a common setting for opera seria, exotic locations were a reasonably familiar ingredient to Venetian audiences, as was Giusti's notably neutral stance towards his subject: neither the so-called civilized Europeans nor the supposedly barbaric savages occupy the high moral ground. Giusti was less interested in taking sides than in satirizing the stubbornness of both leaders.

The First Performance of Motezuma

Motezuma had its first performance on 14 November 1733 at the Teatro S. Angelo, perhaps directed by Vivaldi from the violin. Like all of his operatic projects during this season, it featured dances choreographed by Giovanni Gallo. Antonio Mauro provided the exotic stage locations described in Motezuma printed libretto, such as a view of the lagoon of Mexico City, that separates the imperial palace from the Spanish camp, with a magnificent bridge connecting the two (in Act I), a vast plain next to a large bay (in Act II), and, in the final act, a temple of the Mexican deity Uccilibos with its altar adorned for a sacrifice. The final scenes take place in a large square of the city, decorated to celebrate the Spanish victory. Perhaps it was not difficult for the Venetians, fond of lagoons, bridges, piazzas and large religious buildings, to identify Mexico City with La Serenissima. Mauro, a regular collaborator with Vivaldi, must have been a talented scene painter, although the relationship was soured by Vivaldi's ruthless business dealings with him after an ill-fated attempt to revive Farnace at Ferrara in 1738.

The Teatro S. Angelo was one of Venice's smaller opera houses and could rarely afford to engage expensive famous singers. Although Vivaldi appears to have preferred mezzo-sopranos (both female and castrato) throughout his opera career, Motezuma featured two young soprano castrati: Francesco Bilanzoni (Fernando), from Naples, had first appeared at Venice in 1731, but sang at Reggio, Ferrara and Turin before appearing in Motezuma; Marianino Nicolini (Asprano), from Brescia, probably made his debut at Rome in 1731, and first worked for Vivaldi at Mantua the following year. Angela Zanucchi (Ramiro) was also from Brescia. She specialized in travesti roles, making her debut at Padua in 1719 and singing at Turin, Verona, Ferrara, Mantua and Naples before being hired by the Teatro S. Angelo in 1733.

The dominant singer in the opera, however, was Anna Girò (Mitrena), daughter of a Mantuan wigmaker and probably Vivaldi's singing pupil. She and her sister Paolina were regular members of Vivaldi's entourage, and it was regularly rumoured that Anna was the Red Priest's mistress (which he strenuously denied). She made her debut at Treviso in 1723 and was associated with many of Vivaldi's opera productions. The famous author Carlo Goldoni remarked that her voice was weak but acknowledged that she was attractive and a good actress. Vivaldi created roles for Girò that avoided difficult coloratura and played to her strengths, such as Mitrena's intensely dramatic accompanied recitatives. The German soprano Giuseppa Pircher (Teutile) was known as the "virtuosa di Armstadt" (Darmstadt), although she seems to have had a very short career. The bass Massimiliano Miller (Motezuma) was also German, but almost nothing else is known about him.

Vivaldi's music in the Sing-Akademie manuscript

Vivaldi's operas during the last decade of his life were increasingly pasticcios or rearrangements of his earlier works, either because he was feeling the pressures of age (in 1733 he was 55 years old) or because he was unsympathetic to the emerging Neapolitan style that was eclipsing the Venetian tradition. However, the evidence in the Sing-Akademie manuscript indicates that Vivaldi made a special effort with Motezuma. The score has an unusually large proportion of entirely new music, and the inclusion of two soprano castrato roles and at least four accompanied recitatives shows his determination to keep abreast with the Neapolitan style of Vinci and Hasse.

It seems that only one extant aria was recycled from an earlier opera: Mitrena's "La figlia, lo sposo" was originally composed for Anna Girò in Farnace (Mantua, 1732). This declamatory piece, with a compelling rising chromatic line illustrating the words "in mille affani", must have been one of Girò's favourite arias: she sang modified versions of it in Catone in Utica (Verona, 1737) and Siroe (Ferrara, 1739). Vivaldi probably knew that it would conclude Act II of Motezuma with a powerful flourish. However, the printed libretto reveals that Girò did not sing Mitrena's superb "S'impugni la spada" (Act I scene 16), which features two hunting horns. Vivaldi's music for this aria requires of the singer a wide range, agile coloratura and phenomenal technique. We do not know why or for whom Vivaldi composed it; Girò sang instead an aria which is now lost ("A svenare il mostro").

Vivaldi never revived Motezuma, but two numbers preserved in the Sing-Akademie manuscript were later recycled: Asprano's "D'ira e furor armato" (Act II scene 8) is a bright D major aria with trumpet obbligato whose text was adapted for Idreno in Act III scene 7 of Bajazet (Verona, 1735), while Motezuma's intense E minor aria "Dov'è la figlia?" (Act III scene 10), in which the defeated emperor furiously laments his fate, was also reused in Bajazet. Both arias are among Motezuma's finest pieces, so it is not surprising that Vivaldi chose to use them again.

There is no conventional love scene in Motezuma, but the score contains several fascinating features: Mitrena's accompanied recitatives are powerful theatrical statements; Asprano's "Brilleran per noi più belle" (Act II scene 1) is a good example of Vivaldi's strong contrasts between an extrovert A section and an Andante triple-time B section; "Quel rossor ch'in volto miri" (Act II scene 3) is a graceful musical illustration of Ramiro's rational and enlightened thinking; the trio "A battaglia" (Act II scene 5) is an unusually substantial yet compact piece that concentrates on the dramatic conflict in the text without any distracting orchestral flourishes. All these ingredients suggest that Vivaldi was striving to evoke strong dramatic conflict and to create sharply etched characterizations in his powerful New World opera.

David Vickers
12/2005


    Alan Curtis on Motezuma

The conductor-scholar in conversation with David Vickers

David Vickers: How did you first hear about the discovery of the Motezuma manuscript?
Alan Curtis: One can hardly speak of the "discovery" of a manuscript which, clearly labelled, has been in a collection open to the public for over 200 years. Before World War II, there was really no interest in Vivaldi's dramatic music, and an announced discovery would in any case have received very little attention. During the manuscript's "exile" in Kiev, although it was consulted by Russian musicians, apparently no one found it worth performing or publishing. Soon after its return to Berlin, my friend Donna Leon told me about it, having heard it described by her friend Natalie Luebben, who works in the same law firm as Georg Graf zu Castell-Castell, president of the Sing-Akademie. I immediately asked to see it and spent several exciting hours studying and comparing the hitherto unknown music with the known published libretto, which I had from my old friend Jean-Claude Malgoire's recording of his pasticcio, made in 1992.

Is there any connection, musically, between Malgoire's Montezuma (using music from Vivaldi cantatas, serenatas and other operas) and Vivaldi's Motezuma as preserved in Berlin?
None whatsoever. However Malgoire used, as did I, the final chorus from Griselda, and the same overture. The date and circumstances suggest that the Bajazet overture was taken from Motezuma; the presence of horns is also an indication.

Does Giusti's libretto contain any particularly noteworthy dramatic ideas?
It is hard to imagine how this work got past the Catholic censors of the day. Giusti presents "Fernando" (Cortés) as a hero, of course, but he does so in a way that makes it difficult for us to approve the deeds of this proud, arrogant, cold-hearted warrior. Motezuma's frantic, misguided attempts at bravery, on the other hand, show him to be an incompetent opponent, but one who arouses our sympathy. Giusti's aim is clearly not to depict the traditional Triumph of Christianity over Barbarians. When Mitrena protests Fernando's atrocities, he pompously defends himself by saying his massacres are "vergini", honest and unstained, and his arms used only to defend the "right of Heaven and earth". This oblique reference is the only mention of his presumed Christianity, and it is certainly not one that puts it in a particularly favourable light. The "Conquest" is not given any religious or even political excuses, and there is no attempt to cover up the violence, brutality and greed that inevitably accompany such enterprises. Both the fragile Teutile and the disciplined but loving Ramiro represent the respective strengths of two opposing worlds, trying to unite. But in the struggle for power, they find no time for love - perhaps a metaphor for the unbridgeable gap between the two continents. As always when a more powerful (i.e. military!) culture prevails, it is enormously destructive of the culture it has conquered.

Does Giusti portray Motezuma as a murderous tyrant (willing to kill his own daughter to appease his imagined gods) or a tragic hero? Is Cortés an invader or a redeemer?
Whose gods are not imagined? I find it typically Venetian that Giusti has Cortés speak only of "numi", never even mentioning "unum Deum". When Fernando announces his final victory, he tells the Mexican people they will have a new king to adore, and "nuovi numi" (perhaps "numi" got by the censors as meaning saints rather than gods - or else they simply didn't recognize Fernando as a Christian hero). I feel not only that Giusti sees Cortés as an invader, but that he sees Motezuma as noble in a sense familiar to the 18th-century: it is better to kill your own daughter or wife than to let her fall prey to "militar insulti", which in context clearly means the violent rape of which troops (in this case Spanish Christians) have always been capable. Asprano, the first pragmatically to go over to the Spanish side when it becomes clear they have won, is also the one most detached from the power struggle, and his comments may represent the viewpoint of the librettist when he is outraged at Fernando's arrogance, when he calls his own priests an "insane bunch of ministers", and perhaps even at the end when he calls the wedding that provides the inevitable happy ending a "sacrificio felice".

Are there any notable features in the vocal writing? How good is Vivaldi's musical illustration of the libretto text?
Many of us grew up with the notion that Vivaldi's writing is incorrigibly instrumental and his dramatic sense nearly nil. I hope this recording can help correct both notions. Vivaldi's theatrical characterization is, however, not always immediately evident. An example could be Ramiro's aria "Quel rossor" in Act II, which at first glance seemed to me rather neutral and formal in character. Living with the piece for awhile, I discovered that the slow dotted rhythms can represent not only noble pride, but also give opportunity for sighs of shame. The falling motion, prominent in the first half of the first three bars, the scalar descent of a ninth in bar twelve or the drop of a seventh at the very end, all suggest the embarrassment and shame of a proud man, eyes downcast.

Why do you think Vivaldi might have not used "S'impugni la spada" at Venice in 1733, but "A svenare il mostro" instead? (music lost - text in printed libretto).
Other things written for Anna Girò suggest that she could have sung, i.e. had the technique to sing, "S'impugni la spada". The printed libretto I consulted at the Fondazione Cini does have "S'impugni". So, apparently, did the libretto consulted by Malgoire. "A svenare" is inserted only in some copies (which would imply a last minute substitution or even a later addition for a different singer).

How have you reconstructed the numerous missing elements of Acts I and III? Only one aria and the final chorus can be conveniently restored from consulting Vivaldi's other known opera scores.
Already some decades ago the great Vivaldi expert Ryom pointed out that the back of a page from a violin concerto in Turin contained 47 and a half bars of 12/8 G major for the first violin part of an aria from an "Act Three" and that since the final words of the preceding recitative were given as "il disegno", this could only be the aria "Aquila generosa" of Fernando in the lost Motezuma. Of course no one cared much at the time, but with the rediscovery of a substantial portion of the opera, those bars have now become infinitely more precious. Most musicians, however, would find them pretty unpromising (at one point there are 24 repeated e's followed by 24 repeated d's!). Even Alessandro Ciccolini, one the world's greatest connoisseurs of Vivaldi and a genius at reconstruction, sat and stared at them for days in despair. But then suddenly the solution came to him and you can now hear it. I find it astonishing and absolutely convincing, and now see that those repeated patterns are part of the "flight" of the eagle ("aquila").

How have you chosen, composed or adapted arias to plug the gaps?
Ciccolini has composed the missing recitatives, adapted certain arias that had prosodic, as well as musical and dramatic affinities with the texts, and made use of his vast knowledge of Vivaldi's style and compositional practices combined with his own skill and fantasy to supply the rest, always with ideas from Vivaldi as the starting point.

What lessons must be observed when you compose new recitative?
First of all there is the obvious: one should create rhythms and melodic outlines that conform to, stem from and underline the existing text, that heighten the drama, and that maintain variety within a convincing harmonic progression typical for the period. But then there is also the very subtle thing called "style" which distinguishes good recitative by Vivaldi from good recitative by other composers. Often it involves favoured, or at least habitual, choices - such as Vivaldi's love of the 6-4-2 chord (major triad with the seventh in the bass) - but at other times it is a certain something, difficult to define.

Is any material omitted?
Not a word or a note.