Review of the 2021 Cavarzère Opera Festival: Le Grazie Vendate

(Photo: Concetto Armonico)

Cavarzere is a small town located in the Veneto countryside in northeastern Italy, with a population of less than 15,000. One of his claims to fame is that conductor Tulio Serafin was born in the nearby hamlet of Rottanova, and the local theater is named after him.

Now Andrea Castello, also a local resident, who is the artistic director of Vicenza in Lirica intends to establish the Cavarzere Opera Festival as a tribute to the great maestro, and to this end has organized a small festival of a month, composed of three presentations, which will include a concert of opera arias entitled “Vissi d’arte” followed by “Stabat Mater” by A. Scarlatti and “Quattro Stagioni” by Vivaldi. The festival, however, began with a performance of Antoni Caldara’s dramma per musica “The Grazie Vendate”, a recently premiered production in Vicenza in Lirica, which also turned out to be its first performance in modern times.

It was written in 1735 on a text by Metastasio, to celebrate the birthday of Elisabeth, wife of the Emperor of Austria, and performed in the private royal apartments in Vienna. Lasting less than an hour, it tells the mythological story of Talia, Eufrosine and Aglaja, also known as the Three Graces, and the revenge they take on Venus, who they blame for the behavior of her son Cupid, whom she lets sow devastate people’s lives, including theirs, by throwing her arrows of love into their hearts. The Graces, dedicated to harmony, peace and friendship decide to raise Elisabeth to be the new goddess of love and in doing so shame Venus.

Giurgola’s keen direction brings a simple narrative to life

It’s a very simple story in which very little is happening. The main drama revolves around the Graces complaining about Cupid’s antics and the decoration of the new goddess Elisabeth. Musically, it is divided between recitatives and arias, one for Talia and Aglaja and two for Eufrosine, and ends with a short choral finale. With such a slim plot, and despite the quality of Caldara’s music, director Rosângela Giurgola had to show some imagination to keep the audience’s attention focused on the stage.

Originally, Giurgola had designed her performance for her premiere in the gardens of the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, where she could enjoy the luscious greenery and flowers, as well as the magnificent building of the old theater. In this case, he passed easily on the small stage of the theater of Cavarzère, decorated with flowers. Having the musical quartet seated on the stage also added to the privacy of the presentation.

Giurgola also lacked the imagination to bring the story to life, in a colorful, elegant and moving staging, supported by an interesting reading of the text and supported by the excellent costumes of Daniela Boscato. Giurgola focused on the political context of the time when “The Grazie Vendate” was written, a time when Austria was and would become even more involved in a series of bloody wars, in which violent passions had free rein. and the Man was distracted. peace and prosperity. In response, the Graces weave their white flowers of peace and inaugurate a new god. It was a smart interpretation and worked well. The Graces were clothed in red, symbolizing the blood of mortals flowing so freely as Cupid’s arrows, now armed with a poison that allows passions to run unimpeded, enter the hearts of men. The new goddess of the Ganges is a god of peace, symbolized by her white costume with a rainbow skirt.

Giurgola’s choreography has also been judiciously developed, with the Graces frequently taking poses as depicted in the works of great artists over the centuries. Often their movement was very lyrical in its conception in which they also sometimes performed simple but elegant dances. The ornament of the new goddess with flowers was beautifully made to become the center of attention, her elevation clearly displayed.

The three Graces

Soprano Claudia Urru was separated as Eufrosine, the Grace that precipitates drama with her anger and irritation at Cupid’s disruptive behavior. She produced a compelling portrayal, in which carefully crafted recitals were delivered with emotional force while showing off her appealing timbre to good effect. In his first aria “Tacer, soffrire! she successfully displayed her determination to punish Venus in which her expressive and agile phrasing impressed. Her final aria “Colla Tromba degli’Eroi…” was delivered in a joyful spirit where her pretty coloring was a delight.

Soprano Maddalena De Biasi grabbed attention as Talia with a lively performance in which she charmed audiences with her contagious stage presence. She was keenly attuned to the subtleties of her character, which were reflected in her facial expressions and physical gestures. Her singing was just as pleasant. His recitatives were lively, inflected with a subtle coloring and accented with well-placed emphases. Her tune “Io, Io so, lo veggo anch’io” showed her vocals to good effect, in which she adorned the vocal line with neat embellishments and displayed great versatility.

The trio was completed by soprano Barbara Massaro who was chosen for the third Grace, Aglaja. She too produced an energetic performance and was fully engaged in her character, in which her ability to develop dramatically sensitive recitative passages was remarkable. Her tune “Si ma non dura” in which she explains her more indulgent attitude towards Cupid was pleasantly rendered with cleverly crafted phrasing, although by comparison her coloring was a bit wild, which slightly undermined her presentation.

The Barocco Arbor Musica Ensemble composed of violin, viola, cello and harpsichord whose debates were conducted by musical director Carlo Steno Rossi produced an attractive accompaniment that captured the elegance and grace of the staging and succeeded in promoting the dramatic nuances of the drama.

It turned out to be a nice way to spend an early Sunday evening. “The Grazie Vendate” is certainly not a moving work, but it is a pleasant piece which has something to delight the public. It was presented with three good singers who, supported by an excellent playing of the ensemble, gave a beautiful interpretation to Caldara’s sleeping score.

However, it was Guirgola’s impressive leadership that was largely responsible for its success. She took what is a simple and in many ways irrelevant narrative that could easily have led to a boring theatrical experience, and successfully brought it to life.

It was, in conclusion, a good soft start to the budding Cavarzere opera festival, but as they say from little acorns…

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