Notes and Editorial Reviews
This was Vivaldi's first opera; it appeared in 1713. (He wrote 93 others.) There are now four available recordings: this one; one on Brilliant Classics (they do not send review copies to me and I have not heard it); a fine one under Richard Hickox on Chandos; and a lethargic one on Bongiovanni (it takes a half hour longer than the others due to incredibly slow recits and generally pokey aria tempos). It is not a ground-breaking work but it contains a string of fine arias, some quite brilliant, and an involving plot that is entertaining if you choose to follow it.
Cleonilla has won the hearts of both Caio and the Emperor Ottone, but she loves her page, Ostilio, who is really the angry
Tullia, Ottone's rejected love in male attire. Decio is a character who advises Ottone on matters of state, but to no avail. After far too many misunderstandings to describe here, Tullia comes clean and Ottone orders her to marry Caio. One assumes that Cleonilla continues her pursuit of Ottone, having gotten away with plenty of nasty manipulation of various combinations of lovers. Yes, the piece is a comedy, showing the emperor (the same Ottone who appears in both Monteverdi's Poppea and Handel's Agrippina) "in Villa", that is, in the countryside, on vacation--but it is a somewhat tart comedy.
This is a lively reading under Giovanni Antonini, who leads the period group Il Giardino Armonico through on-the-mark, conversational recits and flowing arias, delivered in real time and with plenty of dramatic emphasis by the soloists. There is a preponderance of high voices here; only Decio is a tenor, and Topi Lehtipuu does what he can with the only thankless role. As Caio, a role composed for castrato, soprano Julia Lezhneva, 22 at the time of this recording, seems to be a finished artist, with agility, stunning tone, and a dramatic flair.
Roberta Invernizzi's Tullia is similarly well sung, and we get the feeling that she knows how wicked--and enraged--her character is. There's a fine aria in the second act--"L'ombre, l'aure, e ancora il rio"--in which Caio laments his misery and an off-stage Tullia echoes the music of his final phrases but mocks his feelings. Ottone, composed for female contralto, is offered here with instantly recognizable dark tone by Sonia Prina; he is a character enamored of his power and unable to see what is really going on around him. Soprano Veronica Cangemi's Cleonilla is gorgeously sung but has an interpretive bite perfectly apt for this double-dealing lady. This work, and this recording, is highly recommended, with Hickox's a good second choice.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Ottone in Villa, RV 729 by Antonio Vivaldi
Topi Lehtipuu (Tenor),
Veronica Cangemi (Soprano),
Sonia Prina (Alto),
Julia Lezhneva (Soprano),
Roberta Invernizzi (Soprano)
Il Giardino Armonico
Written: 1713; Venice, Italy
Be the first to review this title