La Griselda, Opera by A. Vivaldi
La Griselda is one of these rare gems that one simply has to see whenever the opportunity presents itself. A production of an opera by Antonio Vivaldi was a seldom occurrence even in the composer’s time, let alone centuries later, but Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice is working to change that. This season, connoisseurs of Baroque music can enjoy the stirring dramma per musica in three acts in a rare, faithful revival at Teatro Malibran that brings La Griselda back to its metaphorical home. The opera had its debut performance at Venice’s Teatro San Samuele on 18 May 1735. This season, Vivaldi’s special work will bring joy to live audiences once more.
For La Griselda’s story, we need look no further than The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. Apostolo Zeno had prepared a libretto at the turn of the 18th century, but Vivaldi required major revisions before starting to work on the music a few decades later, so popular playwright Carlo Goldoni took on the task of adapting the book according to the Maestro’s wishes. The two artists’ collaboration was not without its problems, and yet La Griselda turned out a musical and dramatic success. Boccaccio’s original story was characteristically convoluted, but Goldoni applied his keen dramatic and narrative instincts to streamline it and adapt it to both Vivaldi’s musical landscape and the performers’ particular abilities.
Our story begins with a love that transcends class and tradition: Gualtiero, King of Thessaly, has married the shepherdess Griselda and thrown his folk into a frenzy of dismay and disbelief. The people’s hatred for their new queen is so big that when she gives birth to a daughter, Gualtiero must pretend he’s killed his own child to appease the masses. In fact, he sends his daughter Costanza in the care of Athens’ Prince Corrado. Years later, the people’s discontent does not cease, as if fuelled by some sinister force. Gualtiero embarks on a perilous game to convince his people of Griselda’s virtues, while Costanza faces love troubles of her own. How will the complex web of relationships and desires untangle? Audiences at Malibran Theatre will find out this season.