Vivaldi’s Opera

Antonio VivaldiLast year, I wrote about Antonio Vivaldi who was born on this day in 1678. And I’m afraid that I’m forced to do the same thing this year. There are a couple of other interesting people, but I still have a couple of things to say about him. Vivaldi was one of the greatest Baroque composers. As I’ve gotten older, I have found Baroque music less interesting. But when I was younger, I loved his work.

He is mostly known for his instrumental work. The best known of these are the violin concertos The Four Seasons. I was found of his six flute concertos, most especially number 3, “Il gardellino.” I know that concerto so well that I’m pretty sure I still have it memorized, even though I haven’t played it in 30 years. I was surprised to find the following performance of it with James Galway on flute. It isn’t surprising that he would perform the piece, of course. But he’s reading music, and it surprises me that he doesn’t have it memorized. I suppose he isn’t as big a fan as I am. Of course, I never played it (or anything else) like this:

Another surprise to me was that Vivaldi wrote a lot of operas—at least 50, but according to one letter he wrote, 90! So I spent some time listening to some of his work. Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t hopeful. Opera didn’t really come into its all until the Classical period. And indeed, much of it is not terribly compelling. The over-technical aspects of Baroque music that work so well with most instruments sound awfully strained to me in the human voice. Still, there is much to like in Vivaldi’s operas.

Here is a bad video of a wonderful duet from one of Vivaldi’s later operas La Fida Ninfa. I think that translates “The Trusting Nymph.” It sounds playful. I will have to look into it more, but until then, enjoy this couple of minutes:

Happy birthday Antonio Vivaldi!

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