Azione sacra in two parts K. 118 resp. 74c (1771)
Libretto: Pietro Metastasio
Written in spring 1771, "Betulia Liberata" is an azione sacra, a sacred play in the style of the Italian oratorio. The libretto takes up the well-known biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. The Assyrian general and dictator is laying siege to the Jewish town of Betulia. He has the town surrounded and its water supplies cut off. While the Prince of Betulia, Ozias, and religious leaders discuss what to do, the widow Judith decides to act: she boldly strides into the enemy camp, where she wins Holofernes’ trust, arouses his senses and cuts off his head.
The work was commissioned by Don Giuseppe Ximenes, Prince of Aragon, a member of noble Spanish family living in Padua."Betulia Liberata" owes much to the composer’s early experiences with opera, especially "Mitridate", and contains some strikingly prophetic features. One finds the conventional aria types of the opera seria such as the rage aria and the bravura aria; there are powerful choruses and a remark- able C minor aria with choral interjections. The work is preceded by a stormy D minor overture that foreshadows the Sturm und Drang atmosphere of the "little" G minor Symphony K.182 of 1773. As befits an oratorio, The Salzburg production of "Betulia Liberata" is a semi-staged concert performance. The incisive playing of the Munich Chamber Orchestra under its early-music-inspired conductor Christoph Poppen provides the dynamic basis for the homogeneous cast.
Jeremy Ovenden, Ozia
Marijana Mijanovic, Giuditta
Julia Kleiter, Amital
Irena Bespalovaite, Cabri
Jennifer Johnston, Carmi
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Christoph Poppen, conductor
Stefan Aglassinger, video director
Recording date: 18.08.2006