horizontal line

Great projects like the Vivaldi Edition – recording the entire 450 manuscripts by the Red Priest unearthed in the 1930s, including 21 operas – cuts both ways: yes, it’s fabulous to suddenly rediscover a huge forgotten chapter in operatic history; but completeness requires that the turkeys also get a look-in. Argippo is not exactly that but it’s a bit of a dog’s dinner (and isn’t that the literal meaning of pasticcio?): a reconstruction of a show probably put together by Vivaldi for (maybe) Prague, including some of his own old recycled music plus many arias by the likes of Hasse and Vinci. Well, I think that’s what’s going on: Reinhard Strohm’s programme note is a teeny bit confusing. Anyway, violinist/conductor Fabio Biondi, the pocket-sized but full-on Europa Galante (six violins) and his nice cast put a lot of energy into some pretty run-of-the-mill music and eventually make a decent case for this piece, though Act One is a bit of a meet-the-gang slog.

The story is a sort of brutalist-patriarchal standard seria plot, with echoes of Ariodante. Interestingly, we seem to be in Bengal or somewhere (King Tisifaro is referred to as ‘the Great Moghul’), but they behave like regular medieval opera courts, with death sentences abounding. Courtier Silvero has seduced Princess Zanaida by pretending to be someone way posher (ie Argippo, neighbouring nabob), and it leads to much trouble, finally (not convincingly) undone when he fesses up. But the music takes a while to match the drama, and there is a gulf between words and music all the way through, with many off-the-peg arias. Stick with it and there’s the payoffof a few lovely pieces, including much medium-showy coloratura, terrific violin parts and nicely wandering tunes, very decently sung by Emőke Baráth, Marie Lys, Delphine Galou and Marianna Pizzolato, some even not in 4/4 time and without those hammering Vivaldi basses, endless sequences and perfect cadences.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica


   Read full review   


To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.



Read more classical music reviews online here:



Opera Now, 2020 - ©Rhinegold Publishing