OP0039. OTTONE IN VILLA (Vivaldi), recorded 1997, w. Richard Hickox Cond. Collegium Musicum 90; Susan Gritton, Monica Groop, Nancy Argenta, Mark Padmore, etc. (Austria ) 2-Chandos 0614, Slipcase Edition w. Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 095115061428
“This, Vivaldi's very first opera, was premièred in Vicenza in 1713 and was an instant hit. The story is a relatively uncomplicated one by the standards of Baroque opera, of amatory pretenses and misunderstandings: it has been admirably summarised by Eric Cross (who has edited the work) as a 'light-weight, amoral entertainment in which the flirtatious Cleonilla consistently has the upper hand, and gullible Emperor Ottone (a far from heroic figure) never discovers the truth about the way he has been deceived'. The score proceeds in a succession of secco recitatives (with just a very occasional accompagnato) and da capo arias – which the present cast ornament very stylishly.
There are no duets or ensembles except for a perfunctory final chorus in which the characters merely sing in unison; but there's an abundance of tuneful arias, and when Vivaldi can be bothered to write proper accompaniments to them – he often merely has violins doubling the voice, plus a bass line – he can provide interesting imitative counterpoint. Several arias employ only the upper strings without cello and bass except in ritornellos. The small Vicenza theatre couldn't afford star singers, so only limited opportunities were provided for vocal virtuosity; but the present cast makes the most of its opportunities, both in display and in meditative mood. It isn't always easy to tell the three sopranos apart, but Susan Gritton well suggests the scheming minx Cleonilla; Nancy Argenta with her bright voice has the castrato role that includes several fine arias, and displays a messa di voce in an echo aria; and Sophie Daneman, in a breeches role, produces a wide range of colour. Monica Groop slightly undercharacterises Ottone except when roused to dismiss Rome's anxiety at his dalliance. It's quite a relief to ear one male voice, and Mark Padmore is excellent. Richard Hickox keeps a firm rhythmic hand on everything and delivers quite the best and neatest Vivaldi operatic recording yet.”
- GRAMOPHONE, 2010