An A-list Vivaldi performance

Some first class performances nudge this recording of Vivaldi's Ercole sul Termondonte beyond opera-by-numbers

Composer: Vivaldi
Repertoire: Ercole sul Termondonte 
Artists: Soloists, Santa Cecilia Chamber Choir, Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi; Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Julia Fischer (violin)
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Opera
Label: Virgin 694 5450

The Music: By 1723, Vivaldi was well into his operatic stride - choruses and duets are now in the mix. The story is the ninth labour of Hercules, in which he captures the sword of Atiope, queen of a tribe of female warriors who put their male children to death. It was premièred by an all-male cast. 

The Performance: It’s impossible not to be struck by the A-list cast before the CD is even in your machine. Amongst several strong vocal performances, Joyce DiDonato’s is the one to cherish, especially her exquisite ‘Onde chiare che sussurrate’. Rolando Villazón as Hercules is on dramatically good form, although he appears to find the speed of ‘Vedrà l’empia’ hard work. He conquers, but it feels an uncomfortably Herculean struggle. Biondi’s orchestral interpretation is a flowing one, smoother and more cohesive in texture than Antonmini’s, but the rhythmic vitality is still most certainly present. 

The Verdict: It’s not as life-enhancing a recording as Ottone. However, with its choruses etc., it sounds more like opera-as-we-know-it, which well may appeal. Furthermore, it’s arguable that it’s worth the money for DiDonato’s fabulous performance alone. 

Want More? Hear DiDonato in similar repertoire on Furore: Handel Opera Arias, with Les Talens Lyriques and Christophe Rousset on Virgin Classics (519 0382).