Esta es otra obra de uno de los puentes entre la opera barroca y la Clásica, NICCOLÒ JOMMELLI, injustamente olvidado y que solo ahora empieza a descubrirse. Transformó los recitativos "secos" en recitativos "acompañados" y les dio más importancia en el desarrollo de la trama.
Il Vologes was written in 1766, using a wordy libretto by Mattia Verazi, itself an extensive reworking of Apostolo Zeno's Lucio Vero (1700). The plot deals with the constancy of love in the face of great obstacles, in this case the love of Vologeso, king of the Parthians, and his wife Berenice. The Roman general Lucio Vero has defeated and captured Vologeso, fallen in love with Berenice, and spends most of Acts I and II seducing and bullying her into abandoning her husband. When Lucilla, daughter of the Roman emperor and Lucio's fiancee, turns up, she and the Roman emissary Flavio are disgusted by his behavior; Flavio, assisted by Vologeso, leads a revolt that results in Lucio's capitulation and the restoration of their freedom and their kingdom to Vologeso and Berenice. The plot allows ample opportunity for dramatic movement and spectacle, e.g., in Lucio's importunities and their rejection by Berenice, Vologeso's confrontation with lions in an arena, and the revolt that ends the opera.
The music is conventional in its use of recitative followed by arias, but forward-looking in that many of the recitatives in Acts II and II are accompanied by the orchestra rather than the traditional basso continuo - the arias are often in abbreviated da capo form so that they do not slow up the action, and the chorus and orchestra play a more considerable part in the proceedings than is usual in Baroque operas. Jommelli had no great gift for melody and the opera offers few memorable tunes, but he had a talent for brilliant vocal display and dramatic orchestral effects. The total effect is imaginative, lively, and attractive.
The casting is odd; with only one male voice and five sopranos it's hard to tell the characters apart. Odinius, Rossmanith, and Schneiderman all have good voices and are comfortable with Baroque style and ornamentation and expressive in their characterizations. Waschinski and Taylor are as good as most falsettists, though as usual their uneven voice production and unfocused tones set my teeth on edge, and Waschinski sounds much too feminine to make plausible the heroic figure of Vologeso. (I really do not understand why conductors and producers nowadays insist on using these voices in Baroque opera, a practice that has neither historical nor aesthetic justification.). The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra is alert and responsive, Frieder Bernius keeps everything moving along briskly, and the sound is excellent. Il Vologeso doesn't stand up too well compared to the Italian operas of Handel or Gluck, but taken on its own terms and as presented here, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
The war between Rome and the Parthians seems decided: the Roman general Lucio Vero has defeated the Parthians; their king, Vologeso, has supposedly fallen in battle and his consort Berenice has been brought, along with other prisoners, to Lucio Vero's court at Ephesus. Lucio Vero is in love with Berenice, but she remains faithful to Vologeso beyond death.
During a banquet, a Parthian slave plans to poison Lucio Vero. Berenice, unawares, is about to drink the poisoned wine, when the Parthian reveals his murderous intent and so saves Berenice's life. She alone has recognised in him Vologeso, believed dead. Lucio Vero has him thrown into prison.
Lucio Vero receives a visit from Rome: the Emperor's daughter Lucilla, his betrothed, as well as Flavio, ambassador of the Senate. Both urge Lucio to return to Rome, Flavio from reasons of State, Lucilla from love.
Vologeso, unarmed, is to be thrown to the lions in the arena. He sees Berenice sitting at Lucio Vero's side and accuses her of infidelity. But Berenice want to die with Vologeso, and hurls herself into the arena. Lucio Vero's sword saves Berenice's life, but Vologeso's too. Lucio Vero has understood: the Parthian is King Vologeso. Lucilla has also realised that Lucio Vero loves Berenice. Berenice and Vologeso hope for clemency by the Roman general. Lucilla wants clarification: Lucio Vero is silent.
Lucio Vero discusses with his servant Aniceto how he could win Berenice. He offers Vologeso his freedom and his kingdom if he will give up Berenice: Vologeso furiously refuses. Berenice wants to save Vologeso's life; but how can she do so without being unfaithful to him? Lucio Vero presents her with the choice: either her hand or Vologeso's head. She promises him her heart. Lucio Vero triumphs, but yet doubts assail him: will Berenice really love him?
Lucilla hears from Lucio's lips how his heart is bestowed: he loves Berenice. She and Flavio are to go back to Rome: he suggests also that she has certainly, some time ago, had another lover. Lucilla is incensed, for her love is unshakeable.
Lucio Vero informs Vologeso that he has lost Berenice. Berenice corrects him: she has promised Lucio her heart but he needs to tear it from her breast. Both are ready to die for their love. Lucio rages and puts her in chains: such great love bewilders him.
The Roman Army is no longer prepared to obey a general who insults the daughter of the Emperor and loves the consort of an enemy. The soldiers, with Flavio at their head, are ready to rebel. Flavio frees Vologeso from his cell: he is to return with Berenice to his kingdom, for Berenice must vanish from Lucio's life.
Lucio Vero grasps at a last means: so as to win Berenice he stages, with Aniceto, a macabre performance, at the height of which Berenice will be presented with a covered object, supposedly Vologeso's head. But Berenice will not give in to Lucio's wooing: now she wishes to be united in death with Vologeso. Lucio Vero is beside himself when the rebels, with Vologeso and Flavio at their head, storm the palace. Lucio Vero has the choice: he must either marry Lucilla and become the Roman Emperor, or he must die. He chooses life. He restores their freedom to Vologeso and Berenice and begs Lucilla's forgiveness.
Vologeso - Jörg Waschinski
Lucio Vero - Lothar Odinius
Berenice - Gabriele Rossmanith
Lucilla - Helene Schneiderman
Aniceto - Daniel Taylor
Flavio - Mechthild Bach
Frieder Bernius, 1997
CD2 & 3: - 2 - - - - - 3