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Vivaldi opera gets its premiere in Ferrara, Italy, about 300 years late

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In this Dec. 29, 2021, photo provided by the Fondazione Teatro Comunale di Ferrara, singers perform in Antonio Vivaldi's "Il Farnace" in Ferrara, Italy.
In this Dec. 29, 2021, photo provided by the Fondazione Teatro Comunale di Ferrara, singers perform in Antonio Vivaldi's "Il Farnace" in Ferrara, Italy. (Marco Caselli Nirmal/Fondazione Teatro Comunale di Ferrara via AP) Photo Gallery

ROME — The Catholic Church and the northern Italian city of Ferrara made their peace Thursday with Antonio Vivaldi nearly 300 years after the city’s archbishop effectively canceled the staging of one of his operas, sending the famed Baroque composer into debt for his final years in exile.

Ferrara Archbishop Giancarlo Perego attended the ceremony opening Vivaldi’s “Il Farnace” at the city’s public theater, a decision hailed by the theater’s artistic director as a “marvelous gesture” that helps heal the past and highlight one of Vivaldi’s lesser-known works.

“We want to restore to Vivaldi what was taken from him here in Ferrara,” Marcello Corvino told The Associated Press ahead of the premiere of “Il Farnace,” which tells the story of the tragic dynasty of King Pharnaces II.

According to historians, in the late 1730s, Ferrara Cardinal Tommaso Ruffo banned Vivaldi from the city because Vivaldi, an ordained Catholic priest, had stopped celebrating Mass and was said to be in a relationship with one of his singers, Anna Giro. The decision effectively meant the cancellation of the scheduled 1739 Carnival production of Vivaldi’s “Il Farnace,” which had already enjoyed success in Italy and beyond.

In reality, Vivaldi didn’t celebrate Mass because he had long suffered from respiratory problems, and his relationship with Giro was like that of any composer with his lead singer, while Giro also served as something of a nursemaid to the sickly composer.

The cancellation proved financially disastrous for Vivaldi, Corvino said, because he had paid for the production himself ahead of time and was already experiencing a period of decline as his instrumental works had fallen out of favor.

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