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Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741) Sinfonia (Griselda, 1735) [5.17] Ombre vane, inguisti orrori (Griselda, 1735) [4.40] Agitata da due venti (Griselda, 1735) [5.43] Non ti lusinghi la crudeltade (Tito Manlio, 1718)
[7.01] Sinfonia (Ottone in Villa, 1713) [4.32] Gelosia, tu gia rendi l’alma mia (Ottone in villa,
1713) [2.01] L’Ombre, laure, e ancora il rio (Ottone in villa,
1713) [6.49] (1) Ferma, Teodosio (L’Atenaide, 1728) [9.12] Sinfonia (Tamerlano/Il Bajazet, 1735) [6.38] Non mi lusinga vana speranza (L’incoronazione di Dario,
1717) [5.22] Se mai senti spirati sul volto (Catone in Utica, 1737)
[8.55] Se in campo armato (Catone in Utica, 1737) [6.28]
Lilian Mazzarri (soprano) (1)
Brandenburg Consort/Roy Goodman
rec. St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London,
19-21 April 1994. DDD HYPERION
HELIOS CDH55279 [74.58]
claimed to have written over ninety operas, librettos to
some fifty survive along with scores to around twenty. Despite
that fact that we think of him as an orchestral/instrumental
composer, during his life-time Vivaldi was famous both as
an operatic composer and an impresario. He not only wrote
works, he ran theatres, booked singers and staged operas
by other composers. His travels around Europe were frequently
operatic in impetus. In this, of course, he had much in common
with his contemporary Handel.
is only relatively recently that Vivaldi’s operas have started
to appear regularly on CD. But it is still the case that
complete recordings of his operas and recitals of his operatic
arias remain something of a novelty.
when we have more exposure to his mature operas, we can make
an assessment of Vivaldi’s merits as a composer of dramatic
works. Undoubtedly he was popular in his day, but in the
18th century popularity in the operatic sphere
had much to do with the composer’s ability to write arias
which flattered the singers and showed up their abilities
in the best light. A prime example of this is Hasse, whose
operatic writing is fluent, sometimes flashy, and attractive
but which shows little of Handel’s dramatic genius. It is
also worth bearing in mind that some of Handel’s finest dramatic
works were pretty unpopular when first performed
of Vivaldi’s faster arias use melodic figurations which strike
me as being rather instrumental in texture and shape. Maybe
it is just that I am more familiar with his instrumental
writing. But certainly his faster arias require a considerable
degree of virtuoso technique. Carestini, the castrato for
whom Handel wrote Ariodante, specialised in this type of
instrumental type figuration, evidently popular in Italy
at the time.
do justice to this type of aria requires a secure technique
and an ability to get far beyond the notes themselves. Enter,
then, Emma Kirkby, a singer who is well placed to do justice
to this repertoire. This disc was recorded in 1994 and has
now been reissued at mid-price on Hyperion’s Helios label.
If you are curious about Vivaldi’s operatic output, then
look no further.
voice on record has taken on a remarkably ageless quality,
reminiscent perhaps of Isobel Baillie. In fact the two have
quite similar types of voice and Baillie was still singing
in public, quite creditably, at the age of eigthy. Here,
recorded some thriteen years ago, she is in fine form. Just
very occasionally the tessitura of the pieces seems to give
her pause and the very highest notes lack the freedom of
earlier recordings. But even so, Kirkby far outshines many
of her contemporaries.
recital mixes sinfonias from the operas with operatic arias.
The sinfonias are crisply and enjoyable played by The Brandenburg
Consort under Roy Goodman. These are lively and striking
pieces, definitely crowd-pleasing material.
sings arias from seven different operas, judiciously mixing
the more up tempo, virtuoso numbers with the slower, more
expressive numbers. One of Kirkby’s virtues in the faster,
bravura passages is that she retains her innate sense of
beauty and musicality. With a singer like Cecilia Bartoli
I often gasp at the bravura virtuoso feats whilst quailing
at the sound quality of the voice itself; whereas with Kirkby,
her singing nearly always sounds right. Granted she is not
perfect, but pretty nigh so - and so expressive.
light vocal timbre works extremely well in such languishing,
sighing numbers as Sei mai senti spirarti sul volto from Catone
in Utica, in which the lyrical vocal line is enlivened
with much musical panting and sighing. But she is perfectly
capable of martial fervour, producing some wonderful trumpet
tones in Se in campo armato from the same opera.
arias are given without any secco recitative, so we must
take their dramatic context on trust. Only in the long excerpt
from L’Atenaide, Ferma, Teoodosio do we get
more of a feel for Vivaldi’s handling of longer scenes.
and his orchestra provide vivid accompaniments, with Vivaldi
often giving them some fine opportunities with his lovely
orchestrations. In the effective, rather accompagnato-like
aria, L’ombre, l’aure e ancora il rio from Ottone
in Villa, the singer’s references to shadows and breezes
echoing her grief, are nicely reflected in the orchestra
with a solo violin and burbling flutes.
far as the recital overall is concerned, this is most enjoyable.
It would be possible to imagine some of these arias given
by a rather more dramatic voice. But in the main, Krkby has
chosen the arias well and provided a vivid, lively and well
Vivaldi’s abilities as a purely dramatic composer, the jury
is still out for me. I find him slightly too reliant on instrumental
textures in the vocal lines. And whilst the arias are effective
and extremely attractive, they do not seem to plunge the
heights and depths the way Handel can. In this way, Vivaldi
seems to be closer to Hasse than to Handel - or Bach for
don’t let me be the final arbiter in this. Do go and buy
this lovely recital at the new attractive price and judge
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