At a festival that celebrates the rare, Baroque opera is itself a rarity. The works of Antonio Vivaldi – best known for his innumerable concertos (especially The Four Seasons), plus some church music – have not featured until now.
Set in legendary Greece, Dorilla in Tempe shows the eponymous heroine, daughter of King Admeto, in love with the shepherd Elmiro while also amorously pursued by the god Apollo disguised as Nomio – another shepherd. Arcadian delights seem to beckon.
But director Fabio Ceresa, who had a significant success at Wexford four years ago with Mascagni’s Guglielmo Ratcliff, and a bit of a flop with Donizetti’s Maria de Rudenz the year after, doesn’t seem to know what to do with this piece. Even the basic plot is far from clear, cluttered as it is with some daft and pointless dance routines and other odd and not obviously relevant incidentals; overall, one senses a lack of directorial conviction.
Originally presented in Venice in 1726, the score survives only in a revised version (1734) probably made by Vivaldi but incorporating arias by at least two other composers – not such a rare practice at the time, however lacking in integrity it might sound by modern standards.
Venetian audiences would have expected and perhaps got exceptional singing, and Vivaldi’s music certainly needs virtuosos to make its mark. The standard here is often good but distinctly uneven.
Conductor Andrea Marchiol leads a performance in which the orchestra and chorus offer a reasonable sense of style; but the show nevertheless feels far too long.