BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Bajazet (1735) [146:23]
Bajazet – Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (bass-baritone)
Tamerlane – David Daniels (counter-tenor)
Asteria – Marijana Mijanovic (alto)
Andronicus – Elina Garanca (mezzo)
Irene – Vivica Genaux (mezzo)
Idaspe – Patrizia Ciofi (soprano)
Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
rec. Musica Numeris, Flagey Studio 4, Brussels, 10-15 April 2004. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 4564592 [73:35 + 72:48]
In many ways this double CD set of Vivaldi’s opera is a bargain buy. A re-release of the original 2005 issue, it comes at an affordable mid-price. But more than that, it packs in two-and-a-half hours of glorious music from the Italian Baroque.
Composed for the Carnival season in Verona in 1735, Bajazet is a ‘pasticcio’ opera based on the familiar story of the eponymous Turkish sultan’s imprisonment at the hands of the Tartar tyrant Tamerlane. As such, it openly uses arias by other composers, including Hasse, Broschi and Giacomelli, as well as re-cycled pieces from Vivaldi’s own operas (L’Olimpiade, Giustino, Farnace, Semiramide and Montezuma among them).
But this is no mere patchwork of recycled numbers. All the ‘borrowed’ arias are expertly placed within the dramatic fabric of the work and are held together with richly composed recitatives. What we end up with is the best of the best in terms of Neapolitan-style opera – tuneful, virtuosic and passionate. Virtually every number in this recording is a highlight.
What really lifts the recording is the quality of the performances. There are no holes or flaws among the experienced cast. David Daniels makes a fine Tamerlane – slippery and cruel – while Marijana Mijanovic’s Asteria packs a powerful dramatic punch. Top marks too for Vivica Genaux in the technically demanding role of Irene. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo makes a commanding Bajazet, although his tough dignity comes at the loss of some sensitivity.
Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi’s careful direction are a pleasure to listen to. Their playing of the opening Sinfonia powerfully sets up the rest of the opera. They stomp through Vivaldi’s pounding rhythms, and provide delicate support during the more contemplative arias. The sound recording is excellent. Even the guitar, theorbo and harpsichord continuo – often obscured by heavy strings – are perfectly audible here.
There is a bonus DVD which consists of performances of seven of the opera’s arias, filmed at the Brussels studios during recording sessions. It is good to see the players and soloists in the flesh, but the DVD does not give much insight into the opera itself. Another niggle is the lack of a synopsis (let alone a libretto) in the sleeve-notes. To get that, you have to put the second CD into a CD-ROM drive, if you have one.
The best of the best in terms of Neapolitan-style opera – tuneful, virtuosic and passionate. Virtually every number in this recording is a highlight.