> Vivaldi - Corselli [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Farnace (1727)
Francesco CORSELLI (1705-1778)

Farnace (1739)
Furio Zanasi, baritone - Farnace
Adriana Fernández, soprano - Berenice
Sara Mingardo, contralto - Tamiri
Gloria Banditelli, contralto - Selinda
Sonia Prina, contralto - Pompeo
Cinzia Forte, soprano - Gilade
Fulvio Bettini, baritone - Aquilio
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
Rec: October 2001, Teatro de la Zarzuela de Madrid.


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At first glance, this set, which includes Vivaldi’s 1727 opera Farnace and excerpts from Corselli’s 1739 version, incites nothing but questions. Why has Savall chosen to break up the Vivaldi work by adding the few movements and arias of the Corselli? This music - a total of 23 minutes - is split into three parts, appearing at the beginning of each disc. This is certainly annoying for someone wanting to listen to the Vivaldi, but why even add this music, other than to fill the empty space that would have existed on these three discs? It is true that this allows the Vivaldi to be neatly separated one act per disc. But why, also, did he change two of the important roles, including the title role of Farnace, from their original castrati (now counter-tenors or sopranos) to baritones?

In any case, since these questions have no immediate answers, one can only focus on the music as it is presented. The recording suffers from the usual problems with live recordings: imbalance between singers and musicians, occasional notes where the singers are off, muddy string sound. On the credit side it has the vitality of live recordings, especially in the more dynamic recitatives.

Soprano Cinzia Forte sounds quite uneven in her aria Nell’intimo dell petto. She seems out of her league here. It is not just one or two notes that are off, but there are enough bad moments to detract from the music. It reminds me of the scene in Citizen Kane when Kane’s wife is singing in her opera debut.

The baritones both sing with great force, which may or may not be appropriate for this music. Remember, their parts were scored for castrati. The use of baritones weighs down the music; one can imagine how it could sound with counter-tenors, much lighter, more ethereal.

The music itself is excellent, and the playing is spirited. This is vintage Vivaldi. While none of the voices really stand out, they are mostly competent and workmanlike. This is not a group of stars, but they do justice to the music.

The work is presented in a very attractive book, 176 pages long, which has the disadvantage of making it difficult to remove the CDs without putting fingers on the music side. I wonder how many hearings this set can endure before the discs get scratched. However the pictures, notes and libretto are exactly what most operas should have.

There are both negatives and positives regarding this set. I find the use of baritones a bit annoying, and the sound is not exceptional. But the music wins out, making this an enjoyable set.

Kirk McElhearn

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