Teuzzone is the twelfth opera in naïve’s Vivaldi Edition’s series and, incidentally, the first new release by Jordi Savall (Farnace was first previously on Alia Vox). The opera belongs to a period of Venetian obsession with exoticism and chinoiseries influenced by the city’s trading links. It has an interesting and engaging libretto which follows the squabbling of several interested parties over the will of the Chinese emperor. Vivaldi’s opera was not the first setting of this tale and, unsurprisingly, there is a suggestion that several arias, as was often the case with a popular libretto such as this, may have been imported from other composer’s works as baggage arias - arie di baula - on the insistence of the star singers. Pure Vivaldi or not, it’s great stuff and a great performance.
Savall is one of our leading lights in early music, his specialist repertory now spanning the medieval to the late baroque with a fluidity that never ceases to astonish and challenge the listener. The classiness, for want of a better word, of Savall’s direction is clear from the very opening of the sinfonia; the quality of the ensemble and the sounds that he coaxes from the orchestra are exceptional. The opera is well cast and each character has some really good material to perform. For me, however, the show is rather stolen by the really astonishing singing of Paolo Lopez in the title role. I’ve been unconvinced by sopranistas in the past but Lopez is most certainly the real deal and it is interesting to compare his vocal brightness against the richer tones of countertenor Antonio Giovannini (Egaro) in his Act II aria La gloria del tuo sangue. Whilst both are excellent singers it is clear that Lopez is more than just a high countertenor - his is really a different fach altogether. Lopez has a wonderful sequence of music at the beginning of Act II with an awkwardly angular cavatina Di Trombe Guerriere that he sings with an impressive control followed up with some really feisty recitative. Exciting stuff.
The performance is consistently gripping throughout from all soloists and, especially the orchestra. The music follows the keen narrative thrust of the libretto but, as always with Vivaldi, he never quite does what one would expect from a composer of his generation; more than once he sidesteps the da capo formula, often with pleasing new material. One can only hope that a staging comes to London at some point.
This release is highly recommended and one can only hope that Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations have more projects like this planned for the near future.
By Ed Breen