Juditha triumphans

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First edition of Juditha triumphans

Juditha triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie (Judith triumphant over the barbarians of Holofernes), RV 644, is an oratorio by Antonio Vivaldi, the only survivor of the four that he is known to have composed. Although the rest of the oratorio survives completely intact, the overture has been lost. The Latin libretto was written by Iacopo Cassetti based upon the Book of Judith.

The exact date of composition and performance of Juditha triumphans are not known, but the allegorical treatment of the Venetian defense of Corfu dominated public discussion in Venice throughout 1716. This work was an allegorical description of the victory of the Venetians (the Christians) over the Turks in August 1716. 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.

Although widely reported to have been performed at the Ospedale della Pietà in November 1716, the victorious General Schulenburg could not have been in the audience of any performance prior to January 3, 1717.


All characters, male and female, were interpreted by women of the Ospedale della Pietà. They are:

An all-female choir sings the parts of the Assyrian soldiers and of the Bethulian women.

The string orchestra is augmented by timpani, 2 trumpets, mandolino, 4 theorbos, 5 lyra viols (viols), 1 viola d'amore, 2 recorders, 2 chalumeaux (soprano), 2 oboes, organ.


The Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar 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.



  • 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.
  • Juditha triumphans, ed. Frances Bennion, Edmund Correia, Jr., and Eleanor Selfridge-Field. Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities, 2013 (score; parts).
  • Review of the performance by the Academy of Santa Cecilia.
  • Walter Kolneder, Guía de Vivaldi, Alianza Editorial (1989), ISBN 0-520-01629-7