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Ambient St. Mark's, ablaze with candles, is an appropriate Salt Lake location for the annual Vivaldi concerts; for it was at St. Mark's in Venice that Vivaldi had a considerable association, and in his music lingers more than a hint of the golden, sunlit splendor of that charmed place.

With Metropolitan Opera mezzo soprano Isola Jones as soloist, this year's concert offers some exceptional music-making, unconventional for Vivaldi and illuminating for the audience.No one would mistake Jones for anything but an opera singer. With her flowing black hair and low-cut gown she is the epitome of glamour, and it's doubtful that Vivaldi ever saw or heard her like in his music. But that's not to say he wouldn't have enjoyed it.

The voice is big, ruby-dark and exciting, but in this music it tends to moves a little heavily, even though accurately. She's not dedicated to skimming through florid passage work, and her long runs are broken by many breaths. But in a setting of Psalm 126, sung in Latin, she shows an irresistible, innate artistry that transcends style.

Her way is generous and sincere with this devout expression of praise and thanks, which is broken into several short movements and ends with a showy Gloria with violin, and Amen. Indeed it's interesting to see how well a big, heartfelt approach, filled with luscious tone and charged with almost gospel fervor, accords with Vivaldi's elegance.

Jones also pleases with "Nel profondo cieco mondo," the opening aria from Vivaldi's opera "Orlando Furioso" - an vivid, ornate piece dedicated to the sentiment that "love conquers all," which she tosses off fervently.

Another stellar performance comes from Ralph Matson as violin soloist in the Concerto in E Minor, R.V. 277 ("Il favorito") a work Matson performs with verve and high style and with the most beguiling tone. Especially in the Andante, where a soulful melody soars aloft, above strings that are making harmonic chords, does Matson display deep feeling. And the closing Allegro bends and surges musically, with frequent flexible give and take between the soloist and cello.

In a program where soloists shine, Milton Jenson and Todd Woodbury bring the smoothest of artistry to the Concerto in G Major for two solo guitars. This comes as no surprise considering their years of collaboration as a guitar duo. Again the Andante is a highlight, its familiar theme shared by the two soloists in suave artistry, while strings pluck the supporting chords.

Nick Norton makes it look easy to play the baroque trumpet, dispatching the Concerto in C Major for this instrument without apparent effort. The piercing yet golden timbre of this small trumpet makes it a good solo choice, and Norton's expert control re-creates another pocket of baroque excellence on the program.

Daring to understate, Nobis scheduled at the first the Sinfonia in B Minor, "Al Santo Sepolero," which begins with the barest whisper from muted strings, in a reverent and tender Adagio. The music continues throughout its length very slow and soft, then peals off into a running, sparkling Allegro.

Completing the program is the Concerto in D Major for instruments and harpsichord, likewise beautifully played. Assisting the solo artists are Judd Sheranian and Lynette Stewart, violins; Jeffery Wagner, viola; Ellen Bridger, cello and Claudia Christiansen, bass. Ricklen Nobis is at the harpsichord.

The International Visitors, Utah Council, hosts dignitaries in government, law, medicine, education, arts, business, and similar fields, who visit the United States on State Department grants and fellowships. This event is their only fund-raiser, and tickets are $25.

-SOPRANO JOAN SUTHERLAND has made her final stage appearances in America, singing "The Merry Widow" for the Dallas Opera. It was in Dallas 29 years ago that she made her American debut, as Alcina in Handel's opera of the same name.