Christophano Allori, Judith with the Head of Halophernes
Every December Pinchgut Opera puts on on an opera at The City Recital Hall in Angel Place. Juditha Triumphans is their sixth production, following Semele, The Fairy Queen, L’Orfeo, Dardanus and Idomeneo.
As usual there are only four performances, the first tomorrow (Wednesday 5 December), and the others on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I’m going on Saturday, but since my main purpose is to pursuade Sydney-dwelling Troppo readers to go along, I can’t leave it until then. Hence the preview, but I’ll update with a review. More previews, in descending order of title wittiness, here and here.
Vivaldi was an ordained priest and produced a huge amount of sacred music, but most of it wasn’t discovered until the 1930s. Juditha Triumphans was first performed in 1716 at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, the girls’ orphanage where Vivaldi was violin teacher and chief composer (more information at Wikipedia). It was written for, and is usually performed by, an all-female caste, but in this production Holofernes will be performed by a counter-tenor, David Walker. If the google return for ‘vivaldi holofernes countertenor’ is anything to go by, this is an unusual move, but I’m all for it.
For that matter, the piece isn’t usually staged; but neither are Semele and The Fairy Queen, and Pinchgut managed to turn both of those into extraordinary spectacles, so I’m sure they’ll do the same with this one. On the basis of the previous productions, and I saw all of them except Dardanus, it will be great value. The City Recital Hall is a very pleasant, intimate venue for baroque opera, and you get a much better opportunity to study the amazing period instruments they use, like theorbos and sackbuts. All for a price that’s forty percent cheaper than the Opera House.
While I’m looking forward to the staging, I’m counting the hours that will elapse before I hear this music. It’s a fabulous piece, notwithstanding its obscurity. For a foretaste (in addition to the fanfare and opening chorus you heard on the Pinchgut site), here’s some excerpts from Youtube:
Veni, me sequere fida. The woodwind instrument is a chalumeau, a precursor to the clarinet, which represents a turtle dove in this hypnotically beatiful aria.
Agitata infido flatu. Another piece that mimics a bird, this time a swallow in flight. You would easily mistake it for Handel.
Armatae face et anguibus. Not a bird, but Cecilia Bartoli here in full flight: Fiery armed and with serpents/ From a blind and squalid reign/ A furious society of barbarians/ As furies came to us.