The drama, vigour and beauty of Vivaldi

The energy and virtuosity on this recording of Vivaldi's 'Ottone in villa place' is head and shoulders above the rest

Composer:  Vivaldi
Repertoire: Ottone in villa 
Artists: Soloists, Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Opera
Label: Naïve OP30493

The Music: Ottone in villa, a drama-cum-farce of thwarted love and mistaken identity of 1713, is Vivaldi’s first known opera. Its entire cast is five soloists. Discounting recitatives, there are no duets, and when the ensemble does sing together, it’s in unison. 

The Performance:  The opening sinfonia practically pulls on your feet to dance, whilst arias and recitatives alike draw you in with dramatic immediacy and vigour. All the vocal performances leap from the disc into your room with their drama and vocal quality, from Prina’s pompous Ottone to Cangemi’s voluptuously sexy Cleonilla. Il Giardino Armonico play with invigorating forward drive, rhythmic punch, and bright sweetness of tone, Vivaldi’s favoured violins singing particularly under their fingertips. A beautiful, joyful listen. 

The Verdict: It’s a ridiculous plot but if you’re at all dubious as to the listenability of Vivaldi’s operas, this should convert you before the opening Sinfonia is up. Charlotte Gardner Why you’ll love this Vivaldi’s Violin Vivaldi started out as a violinist, and the instrument features in some of his best work. In the Sinfonia’s opening Allegro, a pair of them joust with a pair of oboes in some breathtakingly sweet writing. Bags of Character Cleonilla’s opening aria, musing on a dewy flower whilst thirsting for extra-marital love, is perfect musical characterisation. Weighted pauses, sensually throbbing phrases, fast-falling figures in the violins and rising sighs in the voice all indicate combined frustration and eroticism. Sense among madness The one character above all the romance-induced intrigue and silliness is Topi Lehtipu’s Decio. Lehtipuu injects just the right amount of gravitas and heroism to his tone to make that abundantly clear.