Although dead, Vivaldi gets lively 335th birthday treatment at Tropical Baroque Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Eugenia Burgoyne performed opera arias of Vivaldi and Handel Tuesday night at the Tropical Baroque Festival.

Following a weekend program of French Biblical cantatas, the Tropical Baroque Music Festival turned to celebration of the 335th anniversary of Antonio Vivaldi’s birth.

The string ensemble I Virtuosi delle Muse and mezzo-soprano Eugenia Burgoyne joined forces for an invigorating evening of music from the Italian Baroque. String concertos alternated with arias from the highways and byways of eighteenth century Italian opera Tuesday night at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Coral Gables.

The eight-member period instrument group is notable for its exceptionally clean intonation and clear, bright tone sans vibrato. Utilizing an elaborate tuning process in which concertmaster Jonathan Guyonnet tunes each instrumentalist individually, these players can turn on a dime from fiery, full-voiced tuttis to the most barely audible tones, each instrumental part totally transparent. Some of the players are former members of the renowned Venice Baroque Orchestra and that ensemble’s brilliance and dynamism seems to infuse the Cremona-based I Virtuosi’s creative aesthetic. The use of gut strings and Baroque bows enhances the ensemble’s mellow sonorities, captured vividly in the sanctuary’s acoustic.

The opening dissonant harmonies of Nicola Popora’s Concerto a piu stromenti riveted attention, with the players’ terraced dynamics and whiplash intensity. A noble Adagio with a soaring Bachian line and a Mediterranean-flavored gigue were aural delights. The crisp, dancing rhythms of Handel’s Suite in B-flat Major were spiced with the felicitous continuo duo of director Stefano Molardi’s harpsichord and Simone Vallerotonda’s theorbo.

Two works by Vivaldi strikingly illustrated the Venetian priest’s dual musical personality. The breezy Italianate vivacity of the Concerto in C Major was notable for the players’ impeccable unison precision, worthy of the best chamber music groups. Molardi’s harpsichord solo in the Adagio improvised around a serene melody while the final chaconne was a worthy rival to Pachelbel’s Canon in melodic inspiration. The Concerto in G minor was almost romantic, both passionate and stormy.

Burgoyne’s deep, powerful mezzo shone resplendently in an emotional dramatic scena from Popora’s Polifemo. In two Handel arias she brought out the emotional undercurrents behind the melodic lines. Burgoyne’s superb breath control propelled the long phrases of Ruggiero’s aria from Alcina, and with “In crude furie degl’orridi abissi” from Serse, she rolled coloratura trills at rapid speed.

Turning to the rarely played operas of Vivaldi, the richness of Burgoyne’s timbre in an excerpt from Il Giustino approached nineteenth century bel canto in vocal beauty. Burgoyne hurled the opening lines of “Alma oppressa” from La Fida Ninfa like a thunderclap, the foot stomping melody in the strings supporting high-flying vocalism.

Two arias from the operas of Riccardo Broschi, brother of the celebrated castrato Farinelli, suggested this obscure composer’s work may be worthy of exhumation. Over an inspired melody, Burgoyne wove a luminous ornamentation in “Aria di Dario” from Idaspe. With coloratura writing that presages Bellini, she fearlessly ventured into the soprano stratosphere with a showpiece from Artaserse, Molardi and his ensemble doing their best to keep pace. After repeated bravos and cheers, they repeated the aria in an even more exhilarating manner.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Although dead, Vivaldi gets lively 335th birthday treatment at Tropical Baroque Festival”

  1. Posted Mar 10, 2013 at 12:33 am by Bruce

    That’s one of the silliest headlines I’ve ever read! Sounds like a bad English translation of something written in some obscure Slovak language….

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Wed Mar 6, 2013
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