Few biblical episodes can be translated into a work of harshness and dramatic intensity for Lent times like this Giuditta beheading Olofernes. The beautiful Hebrew woman who seduces and knocks out the Assyrian general with alcohol and kills him to prevent him from destroying Betulia, the Palestinian city, has been a source of literary, pictorial and sculptural inspiration throughout the centuries, but has also left oratorios and operas – the rarely performed Mozart betulia liberata – on which the artists themselves have returned on more than one occasion.
This is the case of Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), who matured the scenic expression of this plot in a second oratorio known as The Giuddite of Cambridge . There he reduces his original from five to three voices, the call Giuditta di Napoli, Released in the 17th century. The autograph manuscript of that second version is preserved, as the musicologist Nieves Pascual recalls in Peralada’s hand program, at King’s College in Cambridge. And her libretto is no longer by Pietro Ottoboni on the Book of Judith, as in the case of the one that lies in the Conservatorio di Musica di San Pietro a Majella in Naples, but by Antonio Ottoboni.
Last night in the church of Carme was a pike in Flanders in the musical offer of Holy Week
But leaving aside the exciting musicological world of the Baroque, what was experienced last night in the church of Carme de Peralada, with the ponderous Vespres d’Arnadí directed by Dani Espasa, together with the soprano Serena Sáenz (the decapitant), the tenor Thomas Walker (the beheaded one) and the countertenor Xavier Sabata (as the maid Nutrice who assists Judit in her task), put a pike in Flanders in the Easter musical offer.
Its ambitious decision to expand throughout the year made sense in this incipient spring that has equally attracted French, Barcelona and local audiences to the event. The 240 people who filled the Gothic nave enjoyed this oratorio by the founder of Neapolitan opera, elegantly delivered here by Espasa and with a Sáenz with a beautiful timbre and that ductility that good directors know how to bring out.
Walker responded with a vocal presence and some haste, although it was Sabata who knew how to express the drama –without overreacting– and took the cat into the water with the exciting lullaby I slept, or struck down the war . To sign Giuditta with his brief and resounding Say Bettulia avrai la sorte in which he explains how he has won by showing the head of the general.
The festival completed its particular Good Friday with a double: at the close of this edition it was the vocal ensemble Cantoría that offered the Office of darkness of Good Friday, by Tomás Luis de Victoria, a journey back a century to the fabulous Spanish Renaissance that many other prolific European squares have to envy.
The opening of the festival had taken place on Thursday with the always effervescent countertenor Jakub Józef Orlinski in a Händel-Vivaldi program similar to the one he gave on his last visit to the Palau de la Música. He was dressed in the brilliant Giardino d’Amore, who supported him even in the final dance, an improvisation of a malagueña with the Cuban violinist starting to clap that captivated the audience.
The closing of this promising Lenten proposal is today, with the presentation of the great promising tenorist that is the Italian-British Freddie de Tommasso, the first tenor to sign with Decca since Jonas Kaufmann. His second album the tenor went straight to the top of the charts, and his reissue of Nessun slept achieved a million downloads.