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Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Heroes – Opera arias
Orlando finto pazzo (RV 727):
Se in ogni sguardo [03:11]
Giustino (RV 717):
Vedrò con mio diletto [05:11]
Ottone in villa (RV 729):
Frema pur, si lagni Roma [04:24]
L'Olimpiade (RV 725):
Mentre dormi amor fomenti [07:42]
Tito Manlio (version 1719; RV 738):
Vanne perdida va – Fra le procelle, rec & aria [05:04]
Andromeda liberata (RV deest):
Sovente il sole [09:23]
Demofoonte (RV deest):
Sperai vicino il lido [05:36]
Giustino (RV 717):
Deh perché – Bel riposo de'mortali [04:15]
Il Tigrane (RV 740):
Farà la mia spada [02:44]
Tieteberga (RV 737):
Sento in seno ch'in pioggia di lagrime [04:06]
Orlando furioso (version 1714; RV Anh 84):
Cara sposa [02:41]
Farnace (version 1738; RV 711):
Perdona, o figlio amato [06:29]
Orlando finto pazzo (RV 727):
Alla rosa ruggiadosa [02:22]
Philippe Jaroussky (alto)
Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi (violin)
rec. July 2006, Auditorium de l'Ecole Nationale de Musique, de Danse et d'Art dramatique in Brest, France. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3634142 [63:15]

About ten years ago a disc like this would not have been possible. Vivaldi had only just been rediscovered as a composer of operas, and most of them were not available in modern editions. When opera singers were looking for baroque repertoire for their recitals their attention went to the many operas by Handel. Today a number of Vivaldi's operas are available on disc, and they enjoy an increasing popularity among music-lovers and interpreters alike. More and more share the view of the Venetian nobleman Abbé Antonio Conti - quoted in the booklet – who, in a letter, praised Vivaldi's opera arias as being "varied both in … sublime and tender passages". This is the basic idea behind this disc by artists who have a vast experience in performing Vivaldi’s theatrical works.
The fact that for a long time Vivaldi went unrecognized as an important composer of operas is not as strange as it may seem. The reason is to be found in what we now know about his output in this genre. Even in his own time his reputation was first and foremost based on his instrumental works. In fact, Vivaldi was already 35 years of age, when his first opera, Ottone in villa, was performed in 1713. But from that moment forward he "produced a series of masterworks that make his one of the most important and prolific opera composers of the era"; this according to Frédéric Delaméa in the booklet. On the basis of this and other recordings of arias from the operas one can only agree. That said, an opera is more than a collection of arias. Although I don't know all of Vivaldi's operas, those I have heard have failed to convince me that his dramatic development is equal to – in particular – Handel. I also think that Vivaldi's arias are more interesting because of the instrumental parts rather than the vocal lines. There can be no doubt, though, that most arias on this disc are exceptionally fine in this regard as well.
In the baroque era it was common to give the leading roles to a high voice, be it a soprano or an alto. Those roles were mostly sung by castratos, and so are most arias on this disc. One exception is mentioned in the booklet: 'Mentre dormi amor fomenti' from L'Olimpiade (track 4) was written for a female contralto. It has to be added, though, that Vivaldi didn't care that much about what was common use, as he also wrote some virtuosic arias for bass, when a particularly fine singer crossed his path: see the disc 'Arie per basso', with Lorenzo Regazzo and Concerto Italiano on Naïve – OP 30415.
The arias on this disc range from sublime to tender, as the quotation by Abbé Conti indicates. The first and last items are from the same opera, 'Orlando finto pazzo': 'Se in ogni guardo' is a virtuosic bravura aria, whereas 'Alla rosa ruggiadosa' depicts bees flitting from one flower to another, symbolizing love directed from one woman to another. In between are other, often remarkable, examples of Vivaldi's ability to illustrate an idea or a mood in music. 'Fra le procelle' from 'Tito Manlio' is about the title character being rescued from a storm at sea. The instrumental accompaniment shows strong similarity to the concerto 'La Tempesta di Mare'. Comparable with this aria is 'Sperai vicino il lido' from 'Demofoonte', written to a libretto by Metastasio, although it isn't absolutely clear that Vivaldi did compose the whole opera. Only a few passages have been preserved.
Many operas in the baroque era contained rage arias as well as sleep arias. 'Bel riposo de' mortali' from 'Giustino' belongs to the latter category. It is an aria of supreme beauty: the singer has a very fine and delicate line, with long-held notes on 'dolce sonne' (sweet sleep), and the instruments (muted strings, two recorders and two oboes, playing a siciliano marked 'andante') depict the protagonist drifting off. One of the most brilliant pieces is the aria 'Sovente il sole' from 'Andromeda liberata', a serenata with contributions by several composers. Here it is not just the solo part which makes a great impression, but also the obbligato part for the violin.
As I have said, both singer and ensemble are experienced interpreters of Vivaldi's operatic oeuvre. In most items on this disc they give exceptionally good performances, displaying all the inherent qualities of Vivaldi's music. Philippe Jaroussky has a refined and delicate voice, which results in the tender arias faring better by far. It is the subtle side of Vivaldi's compositional art that seems to fit him specifically well. The more virtuoso arias are done pretty well too, and I was pleased to hear that Jaroussky sings the lowest notes of 'Sperai vicino al lido' mentioned above with his chest register, making them all the more dramatic. I also liked his rhythmic freedom in the couple of recitatives which precede some arias on his disc. Only in some arias, like the first on this disc, I felt that his voice is a little too light and fragile to be convincing. In those pieces I would have liked a more 'muscular' and extraverted performance.
On the whole this is a very impressive recital of some of Vivaldi's finest opera arias. The playing of the orchestra is colourful and vivid, and shows a great feeling for Vivaldi's operatic style. Every reason to recommend this disc, not just to the many admirers of Philippe Jaroussky.
Johan van Veen

see also review by Jonathan Woolf (February 2007 Recording of the Month)



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