Any skilled librettist of Baroque operas devoted much effort to presenting a full range of human emotions in their arias. Hence, the various emotional states that the zealous authors of librettos made their protagonists experience, acquired certain recurring features in terms of music. As a consequence, certain types of arias evolved, distinguished either by the dramatic moment of a work, or by particular musical qualities.
As far as contemporary performers are concerned, the most prized fragments of operas by Antonio Vivaldi and Georg Friedrich Handel are arias of anger, madness and revenge. Agitata da due venti from Vivaldi’s opera Griselda is a virtuoso aria sung by a desperate heroine torn between true love and duty. Armatae face et anguibus from the oratorio Juditha triumphalis is another showpiece coloratura aria, which at the same time serves as an example of a revenge aria. Feelings of agitation and vindictiveness are also experienced by the eponymous Xerxes from Handel’s opera in Crude furie degli orridi abissi, although the protagonist’s arioso Ombra mai fu, which opens the opera, is infused with a sense of calm and dignity. In turn, it is the solo flute part that draws our attention in Ruggiero’s love aria from Vivaldi’s opera Orlando. One example of a lonely hero’s moving lament is Vedrò con mio diletto from the opera Giustino. It conveys an aura that might bring to mind the slow movements of Baroque instrumental concertos, which is a reflection of how Vivaldi’s compositions from different genres interpenetrated one another.
Vivaldi’s instrumental concertos served as a reference point for other composers of the late Baroque era, including Giuseppe Tartini, who, based in nearby Padua, was also a well-renowned violin virtuoso, composer and teacher. For Vivaldi himself, the source of inspiration in terms of instrumental concertos lay with the works of another Italian artist – Arcangelo Corelli. Francesco Geminiani arranged the entire opus of the latter’s violin sonatas as concerti grossi. The series of 12 concertos by Geminiani/Corelli end with spectacular variations based on the La Folia theme, popular in the Baroque era.