L’Oracolo in Messenia (reconstructed)

Virgin Classics present the world-premiere recording of L’Oracolo in Messenia, an opera prepared by Vivaldi for Vienna and now reconstructed by Fabio Biondi. Biondi leads this triumphant performance, which opened the 2011 Resonanzen festival in the Austrian capital with a high-powered cast including Ann Hallenberg, Vivica Genaux and rising soprano Julia Lezhneva.

Vivaldi revised L’Oracolo in Messenia for Vienna in 1740 after its premiere in 1738 in Venice and now Vivaldi expert Fabio Biondi has reconstructed the work from literary and musical sources – notably a libretto recently discovered at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. This musicological feat follows the example Biondi set with two other Vivaldi operas recorded for Virgin Classics, Bajazet and Ercole sul Termodonte.

Vivaldi hoped for performances of the work in Vienna during Carnival in1741, but in October 1740 the Austrian Emperor, Charles VI, died suddenly and Austria’s theatres were closed for a year of mourning; so Vivaldi’s plans came to nothing and he himself died in Vienna in 1741, alone and poor. L’ Oracolo in Messenia was finally staged in the city in 1742 at the city’s Kärntnertor Theatre, starring Anna Girò, Vivaldi’s favourite prima donna, as Queen Merope.

Appropriately enough, this recording was made in Vienna. It captures the opening performance of the 20th season of the prestigious Resonanzen festival of early music, which takes place at the city’s Konzerthaus. The impressive cast comprises soprano Julia Lezhneva, mezzo sopranos Ann Hallenberg (as Queen Merope), Vivica Genaux, Romina Basso and Franziska Gottwald, counter tenor Xavier Sabata and tenor Magnus Staveland. Fabio Biondi leads his own ensemble, Europa Galante, from the violin. The performance was greeted with a standing ovation and the media were lavish in their praise; indeed the Wiener Zeitung said that: “the festival could not have launched its 20th anniversary in more triumphant fashion”.

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