“Farnace” is an opera that offers plenty of opportunity to its singers for the display of passionate emotions, said Wendy Heller, a professor of music with a background in Italian baroque opera at Princeton University.
Based on the historical Pharnaces of Pontus, “Farnace” was written by Antonio Vivaldi to a libretto by the Venetian Antonio Maria Lucchini. This was Lucchini’s most successful libretto.
Vivaldi’s version of the story was presented in his hometown of Venice in 1727. The opera was so popular, it was revived several times in the 1730s in cities such as Mantua, Madrid and Prague. The score from the initial Venice version was lost, Heller said, and modern performers have had to rely on later versions.
Much of the drama is generated by Farnace’s family conflicts and a pronounced sense of duty and honor. Love also creates sparks on stage.
Heller called Vivaldi’s orchestration “enormously energetic” and took note of the intense, character-driven writing.
“From his very first aria, when Farnace is asking his wife Tamiri to commit suicide, the display of coloratura establishes him as a determined and willful character,” she said.
But, while he is a determined character, he ultimately doesn’t succeed in his goal, and that’s probably for the best, Heller said. “After any number of complications, it all ends happily.”