Antonio Vivaldi: La Griselda RV 718

Vivaldi Hardbound

Edited by Marco Bizzarini and Alessandro Borin

Two-volume set: score pp. XXIV, 230 / Introduction and critical commentary pp. 96 [Italian and English texts]
PR 1428
Piano vocal score available
CP 140454

[Excerpt from the Introduction]

The single complete manuscript source of La Griselda, RV 718, is the autograph score preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Turin (Foà 36, ff. 132–247). The neat, orderly handwriting, coupled with the absence of compositional corrections in the strict sense, shows that this is a copy prepared under no particular haste or pressure. The occasional deletions or scratchings-out, whether made immediately or later, are thus the result of lastminute changes of mind (evidencing the great care Vivaldi’s took over his own work) or, as is mostly the case, of simple, mechanical copying errors.

However, the score preserves traces of some more radical and substantial changes that have arisen from the displacement of a certain amount of musical material from its original position or from the addition of material not originally envisaged, with or without the removal of existing music. Since the variants belonging to this category can give us valuable information about Vivaldi’s working method and the problems that he had to confront in the run-up to the opening of the opera, these will be analysed in the section dealing with the description of the autograph manuscript. For the moment, it will suffice to remark that the form attained by the music as a result of these changes coincides with the readings of the printed libretto, leading to the conclusion that all the revisions made to the first draft of the opera belong to the period leading up to the premiere.

As was his custom, Vivaldi took the score out of circulation immediately after the conclusion of the operatic season for which it had been composed and staged. This helps to explain the almost total absence of secondary musical sources, except for a couple of “loose” arias preserved in the music department of the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin and the Fondo Noseda of the library of the Conservatorio di Musica in Milan. But these are movements copied and placed in circulation only after the composer’s death, when others had access to his personal archive and were able to make copies directly or via third persons.

The introductory sinfonia, too, enjoyed a degree of dissemination as an independent instrumental composition, as evidenced by a manuscript score held by Musik- och teaterbiblioteket in Stockholm. It is hard to ascertain whether the Swedish copy, which goes back to the second half of the nineteenth century, was made from a manuscript directly related to the autograph score of Griselda or from a source belonging to an independent stemmatic tradition. However, the presence of a few “peculiar variants” in each of the sources seems to point to the second possibility.

The only other authoritative source for La Griselda is the printed libretto published by the Venetian printer Marino Rossetti around the time of the first performance. Its text has neither virgulated passages (denoting omitted lines) nor cancels (“carticini”) inserted at the last minute to show additions or replacements. Almost half of the surviving examples lack the signature of Domenico Lalli at the foot of the dedicatory letter (pointing to a different issue of the same typographic composition). Even though the libretto and score took shape, and were used, simultaneously, they nevertheless retain a certain autonomy, especially in relation to their specific function and respective destinations. The presence of “peculiar variants” in both sources excludes a priori the possibility that one was derived solely from the other, while the occasional divergences between the words printed in the libretto and those underlaid to the notes in the score do not reflect a more advanced stage of revision in one or the other source, but are merely the result of a lack of communication between the composer and/or the librettist and the printer.

Finally, there is another group of “sources”, interpreting this word in its most literal sense: that is, those manuscripts of his earlier works that Vivaldi used in order to extract from them seven further movements, which were subjected to minor or major changes of various kinds. Normally, variants of this type ought not to influence the text of an edition, since their readings have less authority than those of the autograph manuscript. But at all events, it has been necessary to ascertain whether Vivaldi, when referring to these earlier versions, perchance made copying errors or, through haste, omitted some details of the original notation. Whenever this has happened, the reading transmitted by the earlier source naturally constitutes a valid alternative to that of the autograph manuscript.

List of Arias

Act I
Gualtiero, Se ria procella
Griselda, Brami le mie catene
Ottone, Vede orgogliosa l’onda
Costanza, Ritorna a lusingarmi
Roberto, Estinguere vorrei
Corrado, Alle minacce di fiera belva
Griselda, Ho il cor già lacero

Act II
Corrado, La rondinella amante
Costanza, Agitata da due venti
Roberto, Dal tribunal d’amore
Griselda, No, non tanta crudeltà
Ottone, Scocca dardi l’altero tuo ciglio
Roberto, Che legge tiranna!
Gualtiero, Tu vorresti col tuo pianto

Griselda, Son infelice tanto
Roberto, Moribonda quest’alma dolente
Costanza, Ombre vane, ingiusti orrori
Ottone, Dopo un’orrida procella
Gualtiero, Sento che l’alma teme