Another sumptuous offering from Naïve, La verità in cimento enhances the reputation of both the label and of Vivaldi as a writer of opera. Opera may not be the most highly regarded part of the composer's output, but recordings like this make you wonder why not.
The text sets its complicated love intrigue in the Ottoman east. Vivaldi has been accused elsewhere of showing 'xenophobic animosity' towards things Turkish (see Onofri's excellent essay in another superb Naïve recording, Violin Concertos, vol 1). And while there is the merest hint of orientalising here (with the occasional slide, the suggestion of a zither and some clashing discords) there is nothing cynical or negative about this opera. Its exotic setting merely gives Vivaldi (always a great colourist) an excuse to show off the breadth of his palette.
Such ephemera as set designs and costumes may now be irrecoverably lost, but the music alone provides a continual supply of rich material. As we've learnt to expect from a composer who was always readier to borrow from his own works than from others, the music occasionally recycles ideas explored elsewhere. The attentive listener should be able to recognise music from ripieno concertos (ie those without soloist), and the wonderful slow movement from the violin concerto in c, 'Il sospetto' RV199. Crucially though, all of the music coheres, regardless of its origin.
The recording itself excels. Energy, imagination, commitment, exotic colours and a deeply saitisfying bass combine to make this release memorable. Purists may disagree with me on this point, but the last mentioned element, that rich and resonant bass, adds a vital dimension that is lacking in older recordings. Even if the slightly booming bass is more suggestive of the early C21 than the early C18, and even if it represents a departure from a strict, historically-informed, early instrument ethos, it is a welcome addition, to my ears. The theorbo in particular gains immeasurably from its foregrounding. (For a taste of what to expect, listen to Amazon's digital sample of Track 2, the Sinfonia's Andante.) These Naïve editions aren't cheap, but they represent some of the very best Vivaldi recordings in existence.