- Orlando finto pazzo, opera in 3 acts, RV 727
Recordings of Vivaldi operas are extremely scarce, and whether or not that will -- or should -- ever change is an open question. But excellent performances like this one make a good case for the music deserving wider appreciation, and offer a different perspective on a composer who, despite having been one of the greatest operatic composers of his day, is now known almost exclusively for his cheerful instrumental concertos. Alessandro de Marchi leads the Academia Montis Regalis and a thoroughly enjoyable cast in an impressive recording; the ensemble playing is crisp and incisive, and the singers make short work of some imposingly florid arias. Occasional passages for solo violin, some in duet with voices, are an instantly familiar touch (perhaps Vivaldi's heart was with the violin after all?). The music itself is ebullient and entertaining enough to make following the ultra-complex plot a non-issue, but after an act or two the sameness of tempo and pacing, always allegro, always busy, begins to wear thin. The fact that Vivaldi was a less imaginative composer of recitative than many of his Italian predecessors doesn't help matters. Moments of sustained lyricism, like the third act's "Vedi spietato nelle mie pupille," are all too infrequent, and extremely welcome when they happen. So, "Orlando finto pazzo" may or may not stick around in the repertory, but if you're at all curious to hear an example of Vivaldi's operatic writing, you won't get many better chances than this.