Oratorium sacrum militare
Libretto by Iacopo Cassetti after the
biblical book Judit
sung in Latin
The story of the radiantly beautiful Hebrew widow Judith, who seduces Holofernes, strangler of her people, and cuts off his head with his own sword, has long remained a popular European myth of self-defense: Christianity against "barbarians", conveyed via the topos of "woman against man". As an icon of resistance, a martyr damaged in body and spirit as well as a scandalous proto-Salome – over the centuries, many “Judiths” that narrate of an implacable hostility have been created in the visual and the dramatic arts. Antonio Vivaldi's "spiritual-military" Latin oratorio Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie premiered in 1716 after the liberation of Corfu from Ottoman siege by a Catholic coalition of the Habsburg Family and the Maritime Republic of Venice. Through surprisingly beguiling yet martial music, Vivaldi allegorically portrayed the self-confidence of Venice as "female-tempered" and aggressive only when on the defensive. Throughout the premiere at the girls' orphanage Ospedale della Pietà – famous for its musical excellence – the young women who sang and played the music were hidden behind bars and gauzes; thus, the erotic scandal remained pure lyricism. In this spirit, director Silvia Costa has staged the chorus and solos in Juditha triumphans in a highly poetic choreography that exposes the continuity between those principles that have been built up into hostile poles. After almost two years in involuntary slumber, this production is now finally brought to the stage.