For today’s audiences, Vivaldi’s name exemplifies Venetian opera in the early 18th century – but he was not the only composer to shape the distinctive musical aesthetic of the great trading city known as La Serenissima. In a programme of arias by Vivaldi and his contemporaries, countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic further explores Venice’s contribution to the world’s rich store of Baroque opera. His intention, in this first collaboration with Italian violinist/conductor Riccardo Minasi and his ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, is to recreate Venetian taste and to trace the influences of the time, particularly as the city faced operatic innovations originating from Rome and Naples. All the arias on Venezia (Virgin) are new to Cencic and, assembling a richly varied programme, he has sought out some exquisite rarities. Vivaldi is represented by several numbers, while other composers include the Venetians Albinoni, Caldara and Porta and two composers born elsewhere in Italy, but who became closely associated with Venice: Gasparini (born in Lucca), who employed Vivaldi at the Ospedale della Pietà and who became something of a mentor to him, and Giacomelli (born in Piacenza), whose style was very close to Vivaldi’s; his touching aria ‘Sposa, non mi conosci’ was ‘borrowed’ and transformed by Vivaldi into the celebrated ‘Sposa, son disprezzata’ from Bajazet. Along with a fascinating exploration of the cross-currents of Venetian Baroque style, Cencic promises both virtuoso fireworks and gentle lyricism – and a collaboration with Minasi and Il Pomo d’Oro that will be ignited by the spark of spontaneity.