Tamerlano by Dantone

Last night here in Lucca, in our lovely small opera theater “il Giglio”, seating 750 and about 3/4 full, there was a unique show: Tamerlano ovvero Bajazet, by Vivaldi. This is not a freshly-composed opera, but a “pasticcio” that Vivaldi put together using some arias from former operas of him (Semiramide and Farnace) and arias by other composer such as Hasse. The original show runs for about 4 hours, and this is a selection comprising about 2/3 or the original, put together by one of Italy’s leading harpsichordists and early-music conductor, prizewinner Ottavio Dantone. The orchestra had 4+4+2+2+2 strings, 2 oboes that doubled as recorders, a bassoon, an arciliuto and two harpsichords (conductor and continuo).

The music score is lovely, and the instrumental performance was impeccable, in excellent style, perfect tune and well-reharsed sharp attacks.

The male singers were a sopranist, a countertenor and a barytone. The female singers a soprano, a mezzo and a contralto. Three singers were outstanding: the sopranist Federico Florio, the countertenor Filippo MIneccia and the soprano Arianna Vendittelli, though the other three were also excellent. I found the singing a bit too modern, with too much vibrato. certainly not modern opera singing but also, in my opinion, not quite baroque singing either.

Of particular interest to us were the harpsichords: Italian models, about 4-octave range, powerful sound. They were absolutely identical, which made it easy to have both well tuned to each other and also, I suppose, transportation (piling one above the other in a single case).
Dantone conducted from the harpsichord, and when there were slight interruptions due to scene movements without music he would suitably play scales/arpeggios leading seamlessly to the next music in the score. He often played with his right hand, leaving the bass to the continuo players, using the left hand for conducting.

On the large entrance hall there was a table with records on sale (including this same opera by Dantone and company). At the end “Maestro” Dantone went there to sign the copies being sold, and he was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes.

A delightful evening indeed and a good occasion to hear and meet the great Dantone. Pity they are not frequent here in Lucca, almost exclusively devoted to Romantic opera.

1 Like

Unless our diligent Admin objects, I would like to post a copy of the above in Facebook, in the relatively small group (3000+) of which I am the Admin, “Early Music Performance Practice”.

1 Like

@CDV No possible objection. There’s no exclusivity here.

As an aside, do you really think that is 3000 real users? I often wonder about these figures. 10,000 plus on the FB harpsichord group. Does not sound possible to me given the practically zero interest in harpsichords worldwide nowadays. And why don’t we catch a few broadminded users from these groups? We do show up on Google after all. Strange.

1 Like

Hi Claudio!
By coincidence, I saw Vivaldi’s Tamerlano Bajazet in Galway in January 2022, a co-production between Irish National Opera (INO) and London’s Royal Opera House, in partnership with the Irish Baroque Orchestra (IBO). I don’t remember the instrumental disposition, but it did not have two harpsichords.

The music is indeed lovely, and the plot is quite entertaining too! Definitely worth a visit.

Hi Andrew. 10,000 users in the FB HARPSICHORD is not a high number. It includes not just harpsichord professionals, students and amateurs, but also just simple harpsichord lovers. Not to mention that some people enter Fb groups believing that there is something to gain: as an Admin of two groups, I continuously have to reject “spam membership” by people who could not possibly be interested, or indeed understand what the Fb group title means. I am aware that other Admins are not that diligent. So perhaps the number of harpsichord players in the Fb group is 5,000, but equally so I know personally no less than 3 players (including our David Pickett) who are not there. In my Early Music Performance Practice things are different through my personal effort, although I started only a few years ago with already 2,000 members of which I expelled just two. Who knows how many are there that do not even read the posts! But at least about 1500 are genuine. Of course, in most Fb groups members just read, hardly ever post.

Hi Michael. This is a different production, and since there is no real opera by Vivaldi but just a lenghty pasticcio as I said, chances are that Dantone’s Tamerlano has a significant percentage of music which is different from the production you mention. Anyway, the music is mostly by Vivaldi and Hasse and is , not surprisingly, lovely indeed as you say.

Edit: Dantone’s baroque orchestra is the Accademia Bizantina. Here is the record’s cover.