La verità in cimento, Garsington Opera, Oxfordshire
Le Cercle de l'Harmonie / Les Eléments, Barbican, London
A Salute to Percy Grainger, City of London Festival, London

Outstanding singing and dynamic conducting eclipse the visual effects of a rarely staged opera

Where Handel feeds on psychological ambiguity, Vivaldi strikes a pose.

Written for the Teatro Sant' Angelo in 1720, with a modishly exotic setting for its convoluted plot of past and present love triangles, La verità in cimento ("Truth on trial") is Venetian opera at its most baroque: a series of heroic attitudes betokening love, shame, triumph or despair, each as vivid as the heatwaves and thunderstorms of his famous set of violin concertos, The Four Seasons.

David Freeman's Garsington Opera staging of La verità transposes the court of Sultan Mamud (Paul Nilon) to a Victorian glasshouse peopled by extras from a 1980s pop video. Duncan Hayler's wintry, monochrome set is dominated by a white papier mâché tree. Swapped at birth, the Sultan's bizarrely coiffed sons Zelim (James Laing) and Melindo (Yaniv d'Or) vie for the hand of Rosane (Ida Falk Winland). Meanwhile their mothers, one a vampish scarlet lady (Diana Montague), the other the frumpish Sultana (Jean Rigby), slug it out like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

On stage, languid artifice is all. In the pit, Laurence Cummings and Garsington's versatile modern-instruments orchestra present a far warmer reading of Vivaldi's attitudes. Here is the wit, the drama, the drive: in the animated ostinato figures for cello and bassoon, the limpid violin and recorder solos, the pomp of trumpets, horns and oboes, the percussive bite of harpsichord and guitar, the sweet balm of the harp. Here too is character: in the shy lilt of Laing's "Tu m'offendi", in the agitated harmonies of Nilon's Act II peroration, in Montague's nagging "Lagrimette alle pupille". The ensemble writing is startlingly inventive, the arias scintillating. With outstanding vocal performances from Montague and Winland, and dynamic conducting from Cummings, Vivaldi's opera demands to be heard if not, in this chilly production, seen.

Le Cercle de l'Harmonie and Les Eléments made their UK debut on Tuesday in the Barbican's midsummer Mozart series. Under Jérémie Rhorer, their performances of the Vespers of the Confessor and the Mass in C minor were meticulously nuanced, with muscular sforzandi and crisp consonants. Never recklessly fast, Rhorer stretched the pulse of the Laudate Dominum to a point just shy of incoherence, though Sally Matthews's dark vowels and even vibrato made something wonderful out of its timelessness. As severe of demeanour as Andy Murray, as glamorous as a movie star, the British soprano engaged in an exhilarating rally of high Bs and As with mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg in the Domine Deus, and delivered a flawless Et incarnatus est to Le Cercle's equally flawless flute, oboe and bassoon soloists.

The City of London Festival's special gift has always been its interiors. Every summer, buildings you cannot otherwise enter are thrown open to music lovers. Last Sunday, however, the focus was outdoors, as nine pianists from the Centre for Young Musicians and Guildhall School of Music took a hardy group of listeners on a lunchtime walk from the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's churchyard and Paternoster Square. Directed by Helen Reid, with recorder player and singer Jill Kemp as pied piper, this was a tour of the festival's 15 street pianos and A Salute to Percy Grainger, the most famous of the Antipodean composers to be featured this year. At every stop, tourists watched and small children danced as Grainger's semi-serious arrangements of "Shepherd's Hey", "Hermund the Evil", "Let's Dance Gay in the Green Meadow" and "English Country Gardens" bounced off the marble facades of the Square Mile with nary a hollyhock in sight. Pure giddy fun for a sunny day.

'La verità in cimento' (01865 361545) ends tomorrow

Next Week:

Housework? What housework? Anna Picard goes to the ball as Laurent Pelly's production of Cendrillon opens at the Royal Opera House

Classical Choice

A double-dose of Steve Reich at the Cheltenham Festival today with Electric Counterpoint, Six Marimbas Counterpoint and Vermont Counterpoint performed by Kuniko Kato at the Parabola Arts Centre and Drumming at the Town Hall. In London, Liam Steel's Opera Holland Park production of The Marriage of Figaro opens tomorrow.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?