Arias for Domenico Gizzi
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
I Turchini/Antonio Florio
rec. Sala del Vasari, Chiesa di S. Anna dei Lombardi, Naples, 2014
Sung texts with English, French and German translations GLOSSA GCD922608 [56:49]
In the annals of opera the castrato singers occupy a special position. Names like Farinelli (1705-1782) and Caffarelli (1710-1783), maybe also the slightly older Senesino (1686-1758), are well-known today. Domenico Gizzi (1687-1758) is not. He doesn't even appear in a fairly long list of “Notable Castrati” in the Wikipedia article, “Castrato”. He was, however, in their league, and during the 1723 season at the Teatro Alibert in Rome, was paid 700 Roman ecus for two operas; Farinelli got only 550. Against this background it is only fair that his reputation is restored and the present collection of arias that he sang in Rome (and one opera in Naples) is a marvellous act of rehabilitation. The operas are long since forgotten. Some of the composers are, at best, names we’ve seen in some reference books. None of that should deter anyone from acquiring this disc. This is well crafted and high-octane music. It's on the same level as Handel’s best offerings but the supreme reason for buying it is the stunning singing.
Who would be best suited to represent Domenico Gizzi — or “Egizzio”, the Egyptian, as he was sometimes called — in our time. The task demands someone with a vocal range from middle C to B flat two octaves higher, with coloratura technique to encompass the virtuoso cascades Gizzi had to toss off. The singer would need the expressivity to make something of the texts and with the beauty of tone that Gizzi reportedly possessed. The obvious answer was “The Queen of Baroque Opera” Roberta Invernizzi. Everyone who has heard her once knows that she has those qualities in abundance. Those who haven’t should immediately repair that deficiency-preferably by buying this disc.
The singing is not the only reason to buy it. Behind her she has one of the greatest of baroque orchestras, the Naples-based I Turchini, directed by Antonio Florio. Specialising in mostly forgotten Italian baroque music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries their playing is both elegant and robust. It is only fair that they get two sinfonias on their own (trs. 4 and 9) where we can admire their vitality and precision.
It seems that the baroque repertoire is an inexhaustible source from which to scoop. More often than not there is also music of high quality-irrespective of who the composer is, well-known or completely unknown. Francesco Feo, for instance, is a name I can’t remember seeing before. The two arias from Andromaca are excellent, the first (tr. 1) springy and full of energy, the second (tr. 14) at medium tempo but lavishly embellished. Leonardo Vinci is better-known and since I heard the marvellous recording of Artaserse(review) a couple of years ago I have been eager to hear anything else by him. Two arias from Didone abbandonata (trs. 2 and 15) admirably bear witness that Artaserse was no isolated masterpiece.
In the history books Alessandro Scarlatti — father to Domenico with all those harpsichord sonatas — is regularly apostrophized as one of the cornerstones of the development of baroque opera. He created the Neapolitan opera with secco recitatives tying together a string of arias; Handel’s operas are the best examples of that but also Mozart’s early operas. Scarlatti’s music has been fairly seldom heard, however, and thus it is good to have three excerpts from his Telemaco of 1718 (tr. 3-5). Crude parche is a fine representative of his art and O a morire o a goder demonstrates his flair for coloratura showpieces which also became a model for generations to come. Roberta Invernizzi manages to make the aria interesting and not only as a technical exhibition.
Giovanni Battista Costanzi is another of those rather obscure composers of the early eighteenth century - obscure, that is, to present-day listeners. In his lifetime he was celebrated, not least as a cello virtuoso. He also wrote a number of operas and the aria from L’Eupatra again shows that the standard was high in the opera houses in Rome.
Bononcini’s works have not been entirely forgotten and scenes from Griselda were recorded by Joan Sutherland back in the 1960s. That opera was first presented in 1722 at the King’s Theatre in London, where Bononcini lived for more than a decade and even rivalled Handel’s popularity. L’Etearco was written, according to one source, as early as 1707, but obviously revived in Rome for Gizzi in 1719, just a year before he left for London. Barbari siete, o Dei is an aria that should have made him a rich man if he had lived today with big sales figures and media exposure-I hope this disc will be a financial success-but Bononcini died in poverty.
Deeper knowledge of Domenico Sarro seems to be rather diffuse and there is only one known depiction of him. He was, however, a rather successful composer of operas. The best known of these is Achille in Sciro (1737), which was revived in 2007 when it was recorded and issued on Dynamic the following year. It has not been reviewed on MusicWeb International, as far as I have been able to find. Ginevra principessa di Scozia was much earlier, written in 1720. It has a nice overture and the aria Povero amor tradito is another gem, as is the florid aria Cieca nave, infidi sguardi. Il Valdemaro is quite unusual, insofar as the story is located in Uppsala in Sweden at the time of the Goths. Most operas of the time are located in the Mediterranean area. Sveno’s aria La brama di regno-also filled with coloratura-makes me wish to hear the opera in full.
There remains to note that Nicola Porpora wrote at least 53 operas, that like Bononcini he spent a few years in London. His reputation mainly rests on his activities as singing teacher; he taught both Farinelli and Caffarelli. The aria from Adelaide is powerful and the coloratura is lavish.
Even though you probably haven’t heard about any of the arias here, not even of the operas and in some cases not even of the composers, you will be overwhelmed by the musical riches on display on this disc and-even more important-by the superlative singing by Roberta Invernizzi and the playing of I Turchini. More eloquent baroque singing and playing hardly exists.
Track listing Francesco FEO (1691-1761)
1. Prima ’l vorace fulmine [4:33] Leonardo VINCI (1690-1730)
Didone abbandonata (1726):
2. Amor che nasce [4:19] Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725)
3. Crude parche [4:23]
4. Sinfonia [2:27]
5. O a morire o a goder [1:57] Giovanni Battista COSTANZI (1704-1778)
6. Per due pupille belle [4:15] Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
7. Amore inganna [2:55]
8. Barbari siete, o Dei [4:54] Domenico SARRO (1679-1744)
Ginevra principessa di Scozia (1720):
9. Sinfonia [2:55]
10. Povero amor tradito [4:17] Nicola PORPORA (1686-1766)
11. Volo il mio sangue a spargere [3:48] Domenico SARRO
Il Valdemaro (1726):
12. La brama di regno [3:49]
Ginevra principessa di Scozia (1720):
13. Cieca nave, infidi sguardi [3:01] Francesco FEO
14. No, non mi basterÓ bocca vezzosa [4:20] Leonardo VINCI
Didone abbandonata (1726):
15. Su la pendice alpina [4:48]