Opus 111's Vivaldi: 'La verità in cimento' is the first complete recording of Antonio Vivaldi's 1720 opera, made in conjunction with a revival of this work at the Bologna Festival, albeit with a different group of singers. This recording has an excellent frontline cast, including veteran singers such as Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Gemma Bertagnolli, Guillemette Laurens, Nathalie Stutzmann, and Sara Mingardo and Philippe Jaroussky. The band is Ensemble Matheus under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi, and the instrumental complement is especially aggressive in executing extreme dynamics in Vivaldi. Some may find it a bit much; Spinosi's group almost makes Fabio Biondi sound romantic in approach, though conversely in Europe its work has been very well received overall. This is an extraordinary opera by anyone's standards, an outstanding selection being the ethereal trio, "Aure placide, e serene," featuring the combined talents of Bertagnolli, Mingardo and Jaroussky. Those looking for the aria "La pena amara" – stated in a popular published edition of Vivaldi's arias as belonging to La verità in cimento, but perhaps not so – will be disappointed. However, another aria from this work, "Amato ben tu sei la mia speranza," has developed a life of its own and is performed splendidly well here by Gemma Bertagnolli. Vivaldi's story is a comedy of errors set in the court of a Turkish sultan and is rife with numerous deceptions, foils, and intrigues.
La Fida Ninfa premiered during the Verona carnival of 1732 at the Teatro Filarmonico. The work was composed to help celebrate the opening of the theatre, which had been postponed for two years, since at that time, the city had been surrounded by foreign military troops. The production was spectacular, and included elaborate ballets by Andrea Cattani, a famous ballet master from Poland, as well as sumptuous sets by Francesco Bibiena. “Vivaldi's score is a ravishing one, offering a rewarding sequence of beguiling arias, duets, a trio and a quartet. Sandrine Piau (Licori) and Verónica Cangemi (Morasto) take on the considerable vocal challenges of demanding roles with their usual tonal warmth and bravura, while Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Elpina) provides the necessary emotional contrasts. Topi Lehtipuu is a touchingly melancholic Narete, and Philippe Jaroussky an eloquently, sometimes passionately love-sick Osmino. Altogether a splendid achievement by Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his musicians.” (BBC Music Magazine)
This is a welcome addition to my collection. These little gems sparkle and make me want to look at other Vivaldi pieces. It's time to go beyond the Four Seasons. These pieces show compositional variety, the playing is nuanced and exciting, and the SACD recording is superb.
It is only recently that two seemingly unconnected names, those of Vivaldi and the viola da gamba, have been uttered in the same breath. The established, uncontested view on the matter was quite simply this: from the middle of the 17th century, the viol, which was still flourishing north of the Alps, had all but disappeared in Italy, where it had been replaced by the bass violin and, subsequently, by the cello.
In Milan, after visiting dear friend Tommaso Garani that is terminal in a hospital, the writer Giovanni Pontano goes to a party for the release of his last book, and his wife Lydia Pontano visits the place where she lived many years ago. In the night, they go to a night-club, and later to a party in the mansion of the tycoon Mr. Gherardini. Along the night, Giovanni flirts with Valentina Gherardini, the daughter of the host, and then he receives a proposal to work for him in the area of communication and write the history of his company. Meanwhile, Lydia flirts with the playboy Roberto.
Europa Galante is one of several outstanding specialist period instrument ensembles that have come to prominence on the early music scene in the last decade. These specialist players explore and exploit the strength of their period instruments rather than being restricted by the weaknesses. On this release at their best I especially enjoyed their Concerto in B flat major, RV 383a with its exhilarating played opening Allegro. A plaintive violin solo in the Largo e cantabile features over a clock-like rhythm followed by the furiously paced and energetic closing Allegro. The inspiration is variable and the level of memorability is often limited. A good example of this is the Concerto in F major, RV 291 that opens with a frantic violin solo in a movement that outstays its welcome. The very short central Larghetto is a rather forgettable with a rhythmically determined closing Allegro that feels breathlessly frantic. (Michael Cookson)
After recording Vivaldi's set of Violin Concertos 'La Stravaganza', Opus 4, in 2003, Rachel Podger has been immersed in music by Mozart and Bach on disc. But it has now felt right to come back to the Venetian Maestro, whose sense of drama she adores: “This time I chose his opus 9, the set of 12 Violin concertos entitled 'La Cetra'. There are plenty of jewels in this set, just as in 'La Stravaganza', with even higher technical demands made on the soloist including many, often exotic experimental effects.”