Rivera, Soloviy, Petrova, Fernandez, Storti; Giménez, Lozano; Academia Montis Regalis, De Marchi. Production: Nunziata. Arthaus Musik 101650 (2 DVDs) or 108064 (Blu-ray), 170 mins., subtitled
Rejoice, Pergolesi-lovers, for all six of his full-length operas and the two extant intermezzos now are available on commercial video. Like most of the others, L'Olimpiade, his penultimate opera and last opera seria before he died at the age of twenty-six, was recorded during the Pergolesi Spontini Festival performances in Jesi, his birthplace, near Ancona. The 2011 production takes place not in the Teatro Pergolesi but in the 200-seat Teatro Valeria Moriconi, a made-over twelfth-century church. A cross-shaped platform stage divides the seating area into quadrants; seats face the center. The orchestra is beyond the "top" of the cross; galleries above the other three sides also are used, and singers sometimes move from one level to the other via unseen stairs during ritornellos. The intimacy and in-the-roundness, well captured on video and audio, are apt for this drama of intense personal confrontations.
More than sixty composers set Metastasio's libretto for L'Olimpiade — first Caldara in 1733, Vivaldi in 1734 and Pergolesi in 1735; Galuppi, Hasse, Jommelli, Piccinni, Cimarosa and Paisiello followed. No wonder: what begins as a tale of love troubles becomes a moving, uplifting drama in which friendship, romantic love and familial love are shown to be powerful forces that together overcome all obstacles. The story is also a tightly plotted one, in which the two least prominent characters turn out to have played crucial roles in an Oedipus-like backstory. It's set against the background of the ancient Olympic Games, though the only sport we see is a bit of fencing practice.
Stage director Italo Nunziata and costume designer Ruggero Vitrani don't help the viewer by dressing the two young male leads (played by women) identically and the two female leads almost identically. The three remaining characters also are similarly dressed, and all seven are similarly wigged. As one listens, the ears clarify who's who among the women, for each voice is distinct: Lyubov Petrova has a bright lyric-coloratura soprano; Yetzabel Arias Fernandez has a darker, fuller lyric soprano; Jennifer Rivera has a lean lyric mezzo; Sofia Soloviy is a soprano with a strong low register who here suggests a dramatic mezzo; Milena Storti is a true contralto. Veteran tenor Raúl Giménez and young tenor Antonio Lozano complete a cast of fine singers who lightly ornament the repeats in their da capo arias. As thespians, too, there's no weak link. Rivera, who plays the most volatile of the young leads, is a particularly graceful, natural actress. Giménez is authoritative as a conflicted father and clement king.
Best of all is Pergolesi's exhilarating music, superbly conducted from the harpsichord by Alessandro De Marchi and played by his Piedmont period-instrument orchestra Academia Montis Regalis. Great arias are here — the pastoral, ravishing "Mentre dormi," in which Rivera softly sings the da capo and hums the cadenza; the harrowing "Se cerca, se dice," which capitalizes on Soloviy's range and expressivity; the raging "Tu me da me dividi," in which Petrova nearly equals the orchestra's explosive intensity; and the beautiful "L'infelice in questo stato," an alternately florid and legato meal for Storti.
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