Susan Orlando is the Artistic Director of the Vivaldi Edition, an ambitious project to record 450 compositions by eighteenth-century Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was very pleased to visit with her at her home in Paris for this Conversation to learn more about the Vivaldi Edition and its place in the pantheon of classical music recordings.

STAY THIRSTY: What is it about the music of Antonio Vivaldi that transcends time and continues to relate to people almost 300 years after his death?

SUSAN ORLANDO: It is a truly great composer whose music can transcend time and continue to speak to people centuries after their death and Vivaldi aptly fits in this category. Without going into a complex musical analysis, I would say that Vivaldi had an ability to express feelings and basic emotions in his music with a force that incites an immediate, visceral reaction in the listener. The infectious joy of the allegro movements in sharp contrast to the deep pathos and haunting colors in so many of the slow movements, the overall sense of exuberant sensuality and unbridled virtuosity, these are among the qualities that render his a highly accessible music that incites our most basic human emotions.

STAY THIRSTY: How have you managed to get your arms around the massiveness of the Vivaldi Edition’s mission to record 450 works by Vivaldi?

SUSAN ORLANDO: To be honest, when we began this ambitious project, I thought it a bit mad in its scope. Yet, within a year or two of recording, I recognized the immense significance of the music with which we were working. From that moment on I felt it imperative to make this music available to the world at large by seeing this project through in its entirety. I also realized that, while a concert is ephemeral, a recording, once made, is here to stay and is the only certain way to get this music into the mainstream. I've never looked back.

STAY THIRSTY: What process do you use in selecting the order of the works to be recorded?

SUSAN ORLANDO: The eminent musicologist, Alberto Basso, was the mastermind behind the idea of recording this collection of Vivaldi's autograph manuscripts. To that end, he divided the 450 pieces of music into ten categories comprised of operas, sacred music, chamber music, and the various kinds of concertos (for violin, for several instruments, concertos for bassoon, etc.). This was a given. For our part, we have consistently tried to release one opera each year. As for the remaining yearly releases, it is a question of which artists and projects are available and of variety. Of course, as we are nearing the end of the project this latter objective becomes more of a challenge, the number of manuscripts left to record diminishing.

STAY THIRSTY: How many works by Vivaldi have been recorded to date and how far into the future do you envision this project extending?

SUSAN ORLANDO: We have just released our 62nd recording and estimate about another twenty CDs to completion. Depending on the number of CDs we record and release each year, which in itself is subject to several other considerations, this could take us anywhere from another four to six or seven years.

STAY THIRSTY: Where does the funding for this project come from and how will it be sustained through completion?

SUSAN ORLANDO: Though there are a few private and government sponsors involved, it is the Parisian record company Naïve who covers the greatest part of the budget for each of the Vivaldi Edition recordings and they are committed to doing so until completion of the entire project. 

STAY THIRSTY: The Vivaldi Edition album covers feature striking and dramatic photographs. Do the covers taken together tell a story or is there another idea at work? How did you decide on the subject, costuming and the model for the photographs?

SUSAN ORLANDO: The striking covers were the idea of Hervé Boisière, acting director of Naïve Classiques at the inception of the Vivaldi Edition, and are vaguely inspired from the knowledge that Vivaldi worked on and off all his life with the female orchestra at La Pietà, a foundling institute in Venice. Early on, the photographer Denis Rouvre was brought on board and he has proven to be a brilliant collaborator. Given a title, or the summary of an opera's story, he lets himself be guided by his boundless imagination on which we put no restraints. I should add that he is a much sought after photographer, solicited by many an international celebrity. His website tells all.

STAY THIRSTY: The videos you produced are stark, emotive and magnetic. How did you develop the storyboards for these videos and what role do videos play in the overall project?

SUSAN ORLANDO: Innumerable videos and teasers have been made over the years and I assume you are making reference here to the lengthier videos that have recently appeared in conjunction with the releases of CDs performed by Accademia Bizantina. All credit for these goes to them, from the conception to the production.

Videos are an essential part of the marketing and promotion of music today. Over the years, Naïve has gone from simple teasers to "the making of" videos to the current trend of more elaborate videos, which often times have their own story. While we strive to follow the trend, we have no premeditated role for videos in the project, each one being an independent promotional support for the recording at hand.

Susan Orlando

STAY THIRSTY: Your personal life has gone from being a surfer in Hawaii to a musician and music festival organizer to the Artistic Director of the Vivaldi Edition. How does it feel now to spend so much of your life with a man who lived in the 1700s? As you have grown to know Vivaldi as a person, how has his life and his work impacted you? What would you say to him if you had the chance?

SUSAN ORLANDO: Unquestionably, my life has changed radically from my surfing childhood in Hawaii to being the "perpetua" (an Italian designation for a woman who traditionally served a priest and who would have been perpetually at his side) of Antonio Vivaldi. But that change has been to my good fortune. Vivaldi's music deeply moves me and immense is the satisfaction that I derive in sharing this music with others, and in the knowledge that I leave behind me a work that is here to stay. Such is my admiration that, were I to encounter Vivaldi today, I would be speechless, all that I feel or would want to say expressed in my actions, in serving his musical genius and emotive generosity by aiding in any way I may in making his music available to others.

(Susan Orlando photo credit: R. Minarda; CD covers photo credit: Denis Rouvre)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.