Conducted by Roberto Zarpellon, the Venice Monteverdi Academy Choir and the Chamber Orchestra Lorenzo Da Ponte perform Antonio Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie (Judith triumphant over the barbarians of Holofernes), RV 644, an oratorio which the only survivor of the four that he is known to have composed. This epic performance was recorded at the Brixen Cathedral on August 13, 2020.

Conducted by Roberto Zarpellon, the Venice Monteverdi Academy Choir and the Chamber Orchestra Lorenzo Da Ponte perform Antonio Vivaldi’s Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie (Judith triumphant over the barbarians of Holofernes), RV 644, an oratorio which the only survivor of the four that he is known to have composed. This epic performance was recorded at the Brixen Cathedral on August 13, 2020.

Performers

  • Luciana Mancini (mezzo-soprano): Juditha
  • Silvia Alice Gianolla (mezzo-soprano): Holofernes
  • Silvia Frigato (soprano): Vagaus
  • Marta Redaelli (soprano): Abra
  • Claudia De Pian (mezzo-soprano): Ozias
  • Venice Monteverdi Academy Choir
  • Chamber Orchestra Lorenzo Da Ponte
  • Roberto Zarpellon, conductor

Antonio Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans

“Juditha Triumphans” is a sacred oratorio by Antonio Vivaldi, composed and first performed in 1716. It is the only surviving oratorio by Vivaldi out of the four he is known to have composed. The full title, “Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie,” translates to “Judith triumphant over the barbarity of Holofernes.” This work was written to celebrate the victory of the Republic of Venice over the Ottomans during the siege of Corfu in July 1716.

The oratorio is set to a Latin libretto by the Venetian priest Iacopo Cassetti based on the Biblical story of Judith, the widow who saves her besieged city, Bethulia, by seducing and subsequently beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes. The story is drawn from the Book of Judith in the Apocrypha, which has been a frequent subject of art and literature due to its dramatic and heroic content.

“Juditha Triumphans” is structured in two parts, comprising a series of recitatives, arias, duets, and choruses. It is scored for an all-female cast and was originally performed by the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà, an institution in Venice where Vivaldi was employed as a violin teacher and later as maestro di coro (choirmaster). This restriction led to a uniquely tailored composition, with female voices covering all parts, including those of male characters, which adds a distinctive color and texture to the music.

The music of “Juditha Triumphans” reflects Vivaldi’s operatic style, characterized by its dramatic expressiveness, vivid orchestration, and the use of an exotic array of musical instruments. This includes viola d’amore, chalumeau (an early form of clarinet), viola all’inglese (possibly an early English horn or viola da gamba), theorbo, mandolin, and trumpet. Such instrumentation lends a rich, diverse sound that enhances the storytelling, painting musical pictures of the varied scenes and emotions in the narrative.

The work opens with an overture and follows with Judith’s entry into the Assyrian camp, her encounter with Holofernes, and the subsequent banquet during which she beheads him after he falls asleep drunk. The oratorio concludes triumphantly with praises for Judith’s heroism and virtue. The music variably captures the mood of the scenes, from the somber and introspective to the jubilant and victorious, effectively conveying the themes of piety, courage, and triumph over evil.

The characters in the oratorio include:

  • Juditha, the pious widow and protagonist, is portrayed with both strength and femininity.
  • Holofernes, the Assyrian general, is depicted with a mixture of bravado and vulnerability.
  • Vagaus, Holofernes’ squire, is often used for lighter, more agile musical expressions.
  • Abra, Judith’s maid, provides supportive and often introspective reflections.
  • Ozias, the high priest of Bethulia, who represents the voice of the people and their sufferings.

“Juditha Triumphans” is noteworthy not only for its musical beauty and historical context but also as a vivid example of Baroque vocal and instrumental writing. The oratorio remains a significant piece in Vivaldi’s oeuvre and in the Baroque repertoire, frequently performed and recorded by early music specialists. Its themes of faith, justice, and the role of women in society resonate even today, making it a powerful and compelling work of art.

Juditha Triumphans Program

With start times in the video above:

Part 1

  1. 00:00 Choir: arma, caedes, vindictae, furores
  2. 04:24 Aria Holofernes: Nil arma, nil bella
  3. 08:05 Aria Vagaus: Matrona inimica
  4. 13:01 Aria Juditha: Quo cum patriae me ducit amore
  5. 17:20 Aria Abra: Vultus tui vago splendori
  6. 20:38 Vagaus and Choir: O quam vaga, venusta, o quam decora
  7. 22:26 Aria Vagaus: Quamvis ferro et ense gravis
  8. 27:23 Aria Juditha: Quanto magis generosa
  9. 36:15 Aria Holofernes: Sede, o cara
  10. 40:50 Aria Juditha: Agitata infido flatu
  11. 44:48 Vagaus and Choir: O servi, volate
  12. 48:58 Aria Juditha: Veni, veni, me sequere fida
  13. 56:29 Aria Abra: Fulgeat sol frontis decoræ
  14. 01:00:37 Choir: Mundi rector de caelo micanti

Part 2

  1. 01:04:30 Aria Ozias: O Syderae, o stellae
  2. 01:10:34 Aria Holofernes: Nox obscura, tenebrosa
  3. 01:17:55 Aria Juditha: Transit Aetas
  4. 01:22:59 Aria Holofernes: Noli, o Cara
  5. 01:28:08 Soprano and Choir: Plena nectare
  6. 01:30:22 Aria Juditha: Vivat in Pace
  7. 01:34:48 Aria Vagaus: Umbrae caræ
  8. 01:41:59 Aria Abra: Non ita reducem
  9. 01:45:59 Rec. Juditha: Summe astronum
  10. 01:47:51 Aria Juditha: In sonno profundo
  11. 01:53:36 Rec. Juditha: Impii, indigni, tyranni
  12. 01:55:11 Aria Abra: Si fulgida per te
  13. 02:00:01 Aria Vagaus: Armatæ face et anguibus
  14. 02:04:17 Aria Ozias: Gaude felix Bethulia
  15. 02:07:44 Rec.Ozias: Ita decreto æterno
  16. 02:08:56 Choir: Salve invicta Juditha

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened andantemoderato.com to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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