A British audience will be the first in nearly 300 years to hear a series of arias by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, which were recently found at a castle in western England.

A British audience will be the first in nearly 300 years to hear a series of arias by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, which were recently found at a castle in western England.

The pieces, discovered in a bound volume of music written around 1717 and earlier, will be performed tonight (Nov. 19) by a period orchestra and singers in the Great Hall of the 12th Century Berkeley Castle on the border of England and Wales.

Michael Talbot, senior fellow at Liverpool University and expert on 18th century Italian music, identified the works, which included eight Vivaldi arias. "Six of the eight are known from no other manuscripts anywhere else," he said from Liverpool, moments before leaving for the evening's performance.

He said the six were all that remained of the opera "The Triumph of Constancy over Loves and Hatreds," a Vivaldi work set in ancient Persia with the standard elements of trysts, treachery and eventual happy ending. "I have worked out that the items were acquired, probably all of them together, on a visit to Italy in the winter of 1716/1717," Talbot said.

The arias typify Vivaldi's early operatic style -- simple, memorable melodies accompanied by his signature complex, challenging parts for strings.

Talbot said the loss of originals from the period was common, with composers busy writing to the tastes of the day. "It's absolutely normal -- they had a very short shelf life. This opera was revived a number of times, not always under the same title, then pretty soon it was driven out by more recent work."

Marshall Marcus, chief executive of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), said Venice's archives had much more yet to be uncovered, reflecting the prodigious output of the times.

"The way to think about this is to think about contemporary pop music. The last thing that was on people's minds, maybe not the composers', was that these were works for posterity."

The OAE aims to bring period music to audiences using instruments similar to those for which the composers wrote.


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