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Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie translated as Judith triumphant over the barbarians of Holofernes, Vivaldi catalogue number RV 644, is an oratorio by Antonio Vivaldi, the only survivor of the four that he is known to have composed. The libretto was written by Iacopo Cassetti, based upon the Book of Judith.
Juditha triumphans was composed and performed in November of 1716 in Venice by the orchestra and choir of the Ospedale della Pietà and is described as his first great oratorio. The work was commissioned to celebrate the victory of the Republic of Venice over the Turks during the siege of Corfu. In July 1716, the Turks had landed on Corfu and set siege to the island. The population resisted the occupation and in August, Venice signed an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor. On 18 August, under the leadership of count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, the decisive battle was won and the Turks abandoned the island.
Juditha Triumphans was represented at the Pietà in November and was a great success. The story of Judith and her victory on the invading Holofernes was an allegory of Venice defeating the invading Turks in Corfu. The victorious General von der Schulenburg was among the audience.
All characters, male and female, were interpreted by the girls of the Ospedale. They are:
- Juditha, contralto, a young Bethulian widow.
- Vagaus, soprano, eunuch, Holofernes's squire.
- Holofernes, contralto, Assyrian general.
- Abra, soprano, Juditha's handmaid.
- Ozias, contralto, high priest of Bethulia.
The Assyrian king Nebuchadrezzar sends an army against Israel to demand overdue tributes. Under the leadership of the general Holofernes, the Assyrians lay siege to the town of Bethulia and are about to conquer it. The young Jewish widow Judith goes to him to implore mercy. He falls in love with her and she indulges him. After a rich banquet and having drunk much wine, Holofernes falls asleep. Judith beheads him, flees the enemy camp, and returns victorious to Bethulia.
- Baroque Music As far as his theatrical activities were concerned, the end of 1716 was a high point for Vivaldi. In November, he managed to have the Ospedale della Pietà perform his first great oratorio, Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernis barbaric [sic]. This work was an allegorical description of the victory of the Venetians (the Christians) over the Turks (the barbarians) in August 1716.
- Gianfranco Formichetti, Venezia e il prete col violino. Vita di Antonio Vivaldi, Bompiani (2006), ISBN 88-452-5640-5.
- Michael Talbot, Antonio Vivaldi, Insel Verlag (1998), ISBN 3-458-33917-5
- Libretto in Latin with parallel translation into English.
- Review of the performance by the Academy of Santa Cecilia.