LABELS: Naïve Opus 111 Tesori del Piemonte
WORKS: La verità in cimento
PERFORMER: Gemma Bertagnolli, Guillemette Laurens, Sara Mingardo, Nathalie Stutzmann, Philippe Jaroussky, Anthony Rolfe Johnson; Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30365
Opus 111 continues its generally satisfying survey of Vivaldi’s multifaceted musicianship with an opera which has hitherto never been recorded, though it has been revived on stage at least twice in modern times. La verità in cimento was premiered in Venice in 1720 and marked Vivaldi’s return to his native city, following a three-year period in Mantua. Whether or not the piece was well received remains unknown, but the timing would seem to have been unfortunate for Vivaldi, inasmuch as he was one of the main targets in Benedetto Marcello’s satirical Il teatro alla moda, which appeared shortly after the performances of La verità. The opera’s text, by Giovanni Palazzi – he didn’t escape Marcello’s savage pen either – reveals an oriental setting where the substitution at birth of the Sultan’s two sons, one each born to his wife the Sultana and his mistress Damira, has led to a crisis concerning the legitimate heir. The Sultan wants to get it sorted by revealing the truth but reckons without the power of love. After emotional torment, jealousy and intrigue, a gesture of magnanimity secures a happy outcome.
While the opera never quite matches Vivaldi’s strongest pieces for the stage, the six roles are well catered for by varied and colourful arias. Nathalie Stutzmann (Damira) stands out from a cast which reveals few weaknesses. Her forceful Act I aria ‘Se l’acquisto di quel soglio’ is delivered with formidable vehemence. Guillemette Laurens (Sultana) is variable, though her beguiling ‘Fragil fior’ is sensitively declaimed. But the moments of greatest interest lie in the affecting trio ‘Aure placide’ and in a quintet, ‘Anima mia, mia ben’. Among the composer’s self-borrowings are two consecutive Act I arias for Rosane and the Sultana, which had provided Vivaldi with the outer movements of his Concerto à quattro, RV 159. The playing of Ensemble Matheus, both corporate and obbligato, is outstanding. Nicholas Anderson