Vivaldi: Ottone in Villa

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Composer: Antonio Vivaldi
Artists: L’Arte dell’Arco, Federico Guglielmo (conductor)

Antonio Vivaldi’s fame as an opera composer is due in now small part to his incredible industry. He composed around 50 operas, and of these around 16 have survived complete – several substantial fragments of others have also survived. However, it is for his instrumental music that he remains one of the major baroque composers – on a par with Handel and J.S. Bach.

However, in the world of opera at the time, only one other composer rivalled Vivaldi in the use of orchestral colour and the way in which the human voice was blended with the accompaniment. The writing for voice generally is on a very high level. The rival was of course Handel, and Vivaldi also was a considerable impressario as was his German/British colleague.

Ottone in Villa (Otto in the Country) was his first opera, composed and premiered in 1713, when he was already famed as Italy’s foremost violinist and composer of concertos.

The story concerns Cleonilla, the mistress of the Roman emperor Ottone, and a young man Caio who courts her much to the distress and horror of his lover Tullia. The music is sensual and erotic rather than heroic, with lovely depictions of breezes and wild brooks from the orchestra.

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