VIVALDI La fida ninfa
La fida ninfa inaugurated Verona’s new Teatro Filarmonico in 1732. Vivaldi scholar Frédéric Delaméa calls the opera a “pastoral miniature”, and notes that the quality of the Veronese orchestra and a cast of renowned singers stimulated “the composer to take special care over the elaboration of his score”. There are lots of outstanding virtuoso arias and ensembles, but, more importantly, much of Vivaldi’s music adroitly portrays the moods and situations of the characters in a typically tangled web of lovers’ intrigues and mistaken identities.
Those familiar with Ensemble Matheus will expect the immediate plunge into fizzing energy, eccentric thwacking bowing from the string-players and over-exaggerated dynamic contrasts (eg thinly scraping pianissimo passages) within the first few moments of the opening Sinfonia. In some obvious respects it is an exciting sound, although Jean-Christophe Spinosi’s musical mannerisms are occasionally excessive and rob faster music of the affectionate warmth and sonorous depth that it could convey (for example, the sinfonia “Tempesta di mare” – when the goddess Juno arrives to save the day in the final scene – is played with plenty of crackle but not much splendour).
Much of the singing is marvellous. In “Chi dal cielo” Lorenzo Regazzo sings with gusto and is boldly accompanied by a trumpet, strings and timpani. The principal male role Morasto is sung passionately by Veronica Cangemi (the furious virtuoso aria “Destino avaro” is Vivaldi at his extrovert best). Sandrine Piau’s limpid messa di voce and breathtaking technique in “Selve annose”, and her delivery of fiendish coloratura in “Alma oppressa da sorte crudele”, are astonishing even for her. Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Philippe Jaroussky combine to charming effect in the lively duet “Dimmi pastore”; Jaroussky’s singing in the slow aria “Ah, che non posso” is beautiful, and the two recorders in Lemieux’s merry Arcadian aria “Cento donzelle” play delightfully. “Deh, ti piega”, one of Vivaldi’s finest arias for the tenor voice, is sung tenderly by Topi Lehtipuu. It seems that some of the other conductors in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition opera series (Alessandrini, Dantone and Sardelli) are more natural musical stylists than Spinosi, but this is probably his most consistent opera recording yet and indicates that La fida ninfa is one of Vivaldi’s best stage works.