Friday, December 3, 2010

A Brand New Opera From... Vivaldi?

Musicologist Steffen Voss certainly came across an exciting discovery in 2002 while searching a Berlin music archive:  a score of the opera "Montezuma" written by Antonio Vivaldi that had been missing for over 250 years.

The opera had been first performed in 1733, and had since been thought to be lost.  It actually was archived in the music library of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, an independent old choral association.  After World War II, the library was invaded by the Red Army and taken to the USSR.  In the early part of this century, following the restitution of the collection to Germany, a fragmentary score was identified by Voss.  A variety of musicologists began working on reconstructing a version suitable for performance.

Fresco noticed while surfing the web the Mercury Baroque of Houston performed a concert version of "Montezuma."  Featured in the Houston Chronicle, Mercury artistic director Antoine Plante talked of this "Old - New" production.

"Setting an opera in the New World was really unusual, and gives interesting insights into how people in 1733 Venice perceived it's conquest," Plante says.  The link to the full article is below.

Fresco is more interested in how a lost opera written over 250 years ago will play to an audience.  Many of Vivaldi's operas remain lost - some estimates are around 100 total, and will hopefully be found.  Surely there is more than one gem in this catalog of missing compositions - especially taking into account the composer is as talented and time tested as Vivaldi. 

But while it is exciting to find an undiscovered or lost work from a well-known composer, how do we as an audience ultimately judge the material?

For example, is there a reason these works were lost or never found?  Because a composer the caliber of Vivaldi composed it, does the audience go into the performance pre-judging the work?  Because it is Vivaldi, must it be good?

Also, with no original point of reference, how does one stage a "new" opera by a composer who has been dead for over 200 years?  Since there is no historical reference for approach to the work, can the director take more liberties than with an opera everyone has seen many times?  Are these lost works an opportunity to breathe life into the genre if they are found? 

All interesting and exciting things to consider.

Houston Chronicle Article

More Information On Vivaldi's "Montezuma"

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