Vivaldi: Ottone in villa

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Vivaldi is famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for Le Quatro Stagione, which is actually a great piece of music that has a legacy of incredibly mediocre, denatured performances. It suffered the unfair fate of being turned from art to consumer object in the mid-twentieth century.

Vivaldi wrote a great deal more music, and not just string pieces. His operas total between the almost 100 he claimed and the fifty that have been verified, and musicological research uncovers more every year. Unlike his masterpiece, the operas, while they often have lovely moments, can seem endlessly bland, shallow. They sound all the same, because they pretty much are. Vivaldi operas suffer from the accumulation of Baroque mannerisms, their musical meaning dated and irrelevant.

For what it’s worth, Naïve has been recording the composers entire operatic output. For the most part, these are technically fine and aesthetically undifferentiated productions, historically important but not interesting to anyone other than the most profound Vivaldi fanatic. That being said, the new issue, of Ottone in villa RV 729, is quite fine all the way around, and as a representative of his operas, it’s an ideal choice. The music is not just solid but good and interesting all the way through; lively – which is to be expected – but also varied, the characters and their situations and feelings sounding different. This is also the first recording in the series where my ears can differentiate the different singers and their roles, part of that is the fine music but the other part, of course, is that the singers are excellent, full of color and clearly have ideas about their roles. They aren’t just singing the notes, they are really saying something. Recommended to anyone interested in this repertoire, or who digs Vivaldi.

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