EMPATHETICALLY PATHETIC VIVALDI

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
17 min readFeb 2, 2024

ANTONIO VIVALDI — L’OLIMPIADE — 1734 — RENÉ CLEMENCIC CONDUCTOR — 1990

This opera, L’Olimpiade by Vivaldi, is on a libretto by Pietro Metastasio written in 1733 for Antonio Caldara. But then dozens of other composers used the plot and the libretto in many different ways but always with an operatic dimension. Vivaldi was only one of them, and it was used all over Europe, not only in Italy. It is a melodrama from beginning to end using all sorts of plot elements that create the most melodramatic situations in the classic ancient Greek theater.

First of all, but revealed only in the last scene, a father and king decides to expose his son to the sea because he does not want a son, or this son. The man entrusted with this mission to throw the baby into the sea does not expose the boy but gives him to the first person he meets on the beach who accepts to take the boy under his custody. The boy is entrusted to that man with only one distinctive element: a necklace that will reveal his real identity at the end of the opera just before having his head cut off. This is the pattern of Oedipus, but in this case, the son does not kill his father nor marry his mother and have children from her, children who are the son and daughter of their own half-brother since they all have the same mother.

Second, this boy now a young man is Licida. The man who accepted him is a king on the island of Crete. Licida has a female partner, though not married, in Crete and he abandons her to come to his birthplace, though he does not know it is because he is suddenly attracted by the daughter Aristea of the local King. This father reveals at the very beginning of the opera that he is a monstrous father for the second time in his life though it is long before we learn about his exposing the baby or child Licida, hence for the first time in the opera. He promises to give his daughter in marriage to the man who will win a particular fight in the Olympic Games happening in the same period. But Licida is not a great fighter, he has little chance to win, especially since a champion is entering the fight.

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Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, PhD in Germanic Linguistics (University Lille III) and ESP Teaching (University Bordeaux II) has been teaching all types of ESP