After the success of Il Farnace, Teatro Comunale di Ferrara continues its path of rediscovering Antonio Vivaldi’s rarest and most evocative works with Catone in Utica on stage on March 17th and 19th, 2023.
The vocal cast, in addition to tenor Valentino Buzza in the title role, includes Arianna Vendittelli (Cesare), Miriam Albano (Emilia), Valeria Girardello (Marzia), Chiara Brunello (Fulvio) and Valeria La Grotta (Arbace). As was already the case for the ‘twin’ composition of Farnace, performed again at the Teatro Abbado in December 2021, the new production of the Fondazione Teatro Comunale di Ferrara confirms Federico Maria Sardelli conducting the Orchestra Accademia Barocca dello Spirito Santo and Marco Bellussi directing. The sets are by Matteo Paoletti Franzato, the costumes by Elisa Cobello and the lights by Marco Cazzola. Video interventions will be by Creativite.
Catone in Utica is one of Antonio Vivaldi’s last operas. It was first performed at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona in 1737, and although only Act II and Act III are known, the work is considered among the greatest compositions of his maturity.
Vivaldi attempted, in vain, to bring Catone in Utica to Ferrara, as is testified by a letter addressed to Marquis Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona, in which he praises the Veronese performance: “My opera is on the top of the world,” wrote the Venetian composer to his Ferrara patron, “and I hope you would find it sumptuous. Vivaldi would die in absolute poverty in Vienna just four years later, in 1741. Now, with the desire to re-evaluate Italian Baroque opera production, especially Vivaldi’s, after almost 300 years, it will be performed at the Teatro Comunale Claudio Abbado.”
The story described in Pietro Metastasio’s verses is set in the wake of the Pompeian turn that pitted Caesar against Cato. The story, however, is a far cry from the bloody battles of Pharsalus and Tapso. The refined and elegant stage set proposes a villa by the sea, perhaps the private retreat of Aemilia, Pompey’s widow and a central figure in the events unfolding. The contradictory clash and contest between Cato and Caesar take place on a much more civilised playing field, in which the weakness of a man, the Uticense, who cannot manage his own decline, increasingly emerges. The scenes and costumes synthesise classical and contemporary references, between the elegance of line and crudity of cut, frame and viaticum of the universal drama of private feelings intertwined with political becoming.
The incompleteness of Vivaldi’s score does not harm the understanding of the plot, which in fact, immediately gets to the heart of the clash. Far from wanting to give a reconstruction – always a risky operation and not without arbitrariness – Marco Bellussi and Federico Maria Sardelli, among the greatest experts on the Venetian composer, preferred to present the opera to the public as it has come down to us, certain of its strong expressive charge.