We’re showing a Vivaldi opera, without the first act

We’re showing a Vivaldi opera, without the first act


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2023

Tonight’s free opera on Slipped Disc, courtesy of Operavision, comes from Ferrara in Italy. It’s a wonderful show. All that is missing is the opening act.

Catone in Utica was staged for the first time in 1737 in Verona and is one of the last operas by Antonio Vivaldi. Although only Acts II and III survive, this work is considered to be one of the greatest operatic compositions of the Venetian composer.  After the successful staging of Vivaldi’s Farnace in December 2021, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara ‘Claudio Abbado’ offers a a chance to discover live a rarely-performed production by the ‘red priest’, as Vivaldi was known. The production, broadcast live by Slippedisc, courtesy of OperaVision, is conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli – who is also an essayist, composer, painter and satirist – and directed by Marco Bellussi. To elegant designs by Matteo Paoletti Franzato, part of the action is set in a villa, perhaps the private retreat of Emilia, Pompey’s widow, a central figure in the unfolding of events. The collision and the competition between Cato and Caesar takes place on a playing field, where Cato’s weakness emerges. The sets and the costumes (the latter by Elisa Cobello) have classical and contemporary aspects, framing a universal drama of private emotions intertwined with political intrigue.

The Plot:  Catone in Utica is the story of the power struggle between two giants of the Roman world, the dictator Julius Caesar (Cesare) and Cato the Younger (Catone), the upholder of traditional republican ideals. This battle of political wills forms the backdrop to the military action in which Cesare and Catone are engaged in 49-48 BCE and to an involved secondary love plot.

Available from 17 March 2023    at 2000 CET / 1900 London / 1400 NY


  • PS says:

    Well then it’s just Valdi eh? How about some operas without the second act?

    • Andrew Powell says:

      Act I is needed (and available in the edition prepared by Alan Curtis and Alessandro Ciccolini a decade ago), and OperaVision should insist on a FULL HOUSE before committing its resources. Streaming a torso from a half-empty theatre does not help the art form.

    • Kenny says:

      I definitely nominate Madama Butterfly.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Michael Talbot’s book on Vivaldi, says the Bishop of Ferrara told Vivaldi off, telling him he could not put on any more operas! This is the main reason his income and quality of life declined. I have many Vivaldi operas on CD and DVD, Ottone in Villa an early one is good. Orlando finta pazzo another one. However, I have say there is a wee bit of sameness in them, unlike eg Handel

  • Doc Martin says:

    Vivaldi lived a life a bit like Father Ted, except his housekeeper-secretary was an operatic soprano. I gather there was no scandal despite this. If he had lived on Craggy island everybody would have been talking about it.