Venetian periodical for January 1717 we learn that ‘The splendid Incoronazione
di Dario opened with great applause.’
for musically this is one of Vivaldi’s most captivating operas, while Adriano
Morselli’s elderly libretto is effective in its revised version. The story
explores a three-cornered fight for the crown, after the recent death of Persian
King Cyrus. Darius is backed by governors, district commissioners and the like;
young Oronte is the people’s man while army captain Arpago is supported by the
militia. The victor shall marry Cyrus’s beautiful though none too bright
daughter, Statira, but obstacles lie in the way of that, notably her nasty
sister Argene and lustful old philosopher Niceno. All is eventually happily
resolved, and all but Argene are forgiven for past obstructions and deceits.
Vivaldi’s music is beguiling right from the sparkling C major Sinfonia. Statira
and Argene, both alto roles, are given arias that define their respective
characters. Untypically, Vivaldi allotted the ‘primo uomo’ role of Dario to a
tenor rather than a castrato. The remaining contenders for the throne are
soprano roles, while Niceno is a bass. An unusual feature of his role is a
little ‘cantata in scena’ which he has written for Statira to sing (Act I) while
he accompanies her on a viola all’inglese (viola da gamba). Vivaldi presents his
dramatic credentials with brilliance and ingenuity in L’Incoronazione di Dario.
Vocal cast and instrumentalists are first-rate and all is swiftly paced under
Ottavio Dantone’s direction.