of the East-Roman Empire. With its classical elements of romance
and rivalry, war and peace, and the ultimate triumph of true love,
this is to be Antonio’s new masterpiece.
The leading roles are to be taken by the same singers as
last year; almost all, predictably enough, pupils of Francesco
Gasparini. As always, Antonio has carefully apportioned the arias,
yet this time not to the satisfaction of castrato Giovanni Ossi. The
diminutive mezzo-soprano playing the role of Emperor Anastasio
thinks he has been badly done by. Thus, as so often happens, the
majority of rehearsal time is spent arguing over the length and
number of arias and how and in which costume people will appear.
This sort of bickering tests Antonio’s patience to its utmost. Mostly
he manages to contain himself, but on this occasion it all gets the
better of him.
Giovanni Ossi is determined he needs an extra aria at the
opening of the second act; why else is he onstage at that moment?
As an extra, or to enhance the set maybe? Ossi even threatens to
withdraw from the show, and only the pacifying presence of
Frederico Capranica keeps the rehearsal on course. Although
Vivaldi does have to compromise and promise to insert another
aria. This sort of thing would never have happened had he had
charge of the theatre. With gritted teeth, but nevertheless the ease
and ﬂuency of the maestro, Vivaldi sketches a new aria of ten lines
for the ‘emperor’. Allora, this’d better keep him happy!
It does. The entire production is a hit from beginning to end and
Rome resounds with praise for the Venetian composer. His music
is so different from what everyone is used to, and such a change for
the better. From now on, everything put on in the theatres of Rome
must measure up to the Venetian’s ‘Lombardy style’.
But the Roman public will have to wait for more; on the
seventh of March the death is announced of Pope Innocentius XIII.
The Vatican, along with the rest of the city, is now plunged into
mourning, and all theatres are closed for a year.
With a shudder of sympathy, Antonio recalls the mild
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