La Statira, Opera by T. Albinoni
During the ‘high Baroque’ period in Italy, Tomaso Albinoni truly was a force to be reckoned with. A talented violinist and a remarkably productive composer, he took many Italian cities by storm with his innovative operas, many of them based on historical fact and legend. Teatro Malibran in Venice now revives one of Albinoni’s classic operas, La Statira.
Even though the Italian Baroque composer penned around 80 operas, very few of them survive to the present day, as they were not published in their time. Albinoni’s instrumental works, on the other hand, have been better documented and enjoy much wider popularity. For this reason, a performance of an Albinoni opera is all the rarer and more enjoyable occasion.
La Statira, an opera seria in three acts, takes us back to ancient Persia and documents the conflicts and trials of Statira and Barsimo as they clash over the Persian throne. Albinoni enlisted librettists Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Pariati to craft the dynamic and intrigue-filled plot. La Statira had its premiere at Teatro Capranica in Rome in 1726, during the carnival season. While we do not have a historical record of its success, we know it to be an excellent reflection of Albinoni’s rich and expressive compositional style.
At times listed on par with his contemporary Antonio Vivaldi, Albinoni was a master of the musical conventions of Baroque, which he imbued with his signature feel for melody. His talent for instrumental composition makes the orchestral parts in La Statira an event in their own right. Instead of serving as background and support for the vocal parts, these passages have a life of their own that pulsates with the typical basso continuo and flows with the ethereal string and woodwind arrangements.
Among the arias in La Statira, perk up your ears for the unchained melodies of ‘Vien con nuova orribil guerra’. The vocal acrobatics are reminiscent of the young Mozart: while highly technical, they remain light and roll out naturally and pleasantly. Even though few of Albinoni’s operatic works have reached us, La Statira demonstrates the prolific Italian Baroque composer’s undisputed talents and is a fantastic travel back in time to opera’s 18th-century flourishing period.