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Alma Oppressa
Julie Boulianne (mezzo-soprano)
Clavecin en Concert/Luc Beauséjour
rec. July and August 2016, St-Mathieu-de-Beloeil Church, Québec
Summaries of the sung texts enclosed in the booklet. Full texts available online.
ANALEKTA AN28780 [58:53]

Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne has within a few years become one of the hottest names on the international circuit of singers and is in demand everywhere. I first came across her five years ago, when I reviewed a disc with songs by Gustav and Alma Mahler (review). Since then I have more recently also heard her in a recording of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito (review). On the present disc she juxtaposes arias by Vivaldi and Handel. Little of Vivaldi’s vocal music is well-known by others than specialists, but it is well worth closer acquaintance. Handel, on the other hand, wrote a lot that is often heard. Lascia ch’io pianga from his first opera for London, Rinaldo, has become almost a hit song, and Sesto’s Cara speme from Giulio Cesare is also fairly familiar. But several of the other Handel numbers on this disc may be just as unfamiliar as the Vivaldi arias, so many inquisitive readers should be able to widen their horizons through this disc – and get one of today’s best voices in the bargain.

The opening number, Alma oppressa from La fida ninfa, at once attracts the listeners’ attention. It is an aria with real ‘go’ and the fabulous coloratura technique of Ms Boulianne leaves you breathless. The playing of Clavecin en Concert is also truly impressive. It is a relatively small ensemble: nine strings, oboe, bassoon, archlute and harpsichord, but the playing is powerful, sharply etched and rhythmically keen. The following aria, Sovvente il sole, is in effect a beautiful duet between the mezzo-soprano and the concert master’s violin. It is also a golden opportunity for Julie Boulianne to expose her magnificent low register. The three-movement sinfonia to Armida al campo d’Egitto is played with real gusto in the outer movements and with relaxed beauty in the central Andante.
The three Handel arias that follow, are top-drawer music. Ariodante, which was premiered in 1735 and revived the following year, but after that it was unperformed until 1926, and not until the 1960s did it find its way to the modern repertoire, through a couple of performances in Birmingham with Janet Baker and Anthony Lewis. Today it is widely regarded as one of the greatest Handel operas and has been recorded several times. The beautiful aria from Rinaldo invariably entices singers to be at their best and Julie Boulianne is no exception. The sensitivity and inwardness of her reading touches the heartstrings. Very beautiful is also the seldom heard Se potessero i sospir’ miei from Imeneo, one of Handel’s last operas, premiered in November 1740 and followed only by Deidamia in early 1741.

Another sinfonia by Vivaldi, this time from L’incoronazione di Dario, is also in the usual three movements fast – slow – fast. Very enjoyable! And then back to where we started, with a further aria from La fida ninfa, a beautiful lament that should be a new favourite for many listeners. The noble Qui d’amor from Ariodante rubs shoulders with Cara speme from probably the most frequently performed of Handel’s operas: Giulio Cesare. And this is certainly one of his finest arias, exceptionally well sung. The charming gavotte from the overture to Lotario is another winner and then we end the traversal of Vivaldian and Handelian arias with the virtuoso Salda quercia in erta balza from the seldom heard Arianna in Creta.
Mostly unhackneyed repertoire superbly sung and played in spotless recordings makes this a valuable addition to the collection of every lover of baroque music.

Göran Forsling

Track Listing
Antonio VIVALDI (1678 – 1741)
La fida ninfa, RV 714:
1. Alma oppressa [5:24]
Andromeda liberata, Serenata veneziana, RV Anh. 117:
2. Sovvente il sole [8:11]
Armida al campo d’Egitto, RV 699:
3. Allegro [1:48]
4. Andante [2:08]
5. Allegro [0:41]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Ariodante, HMV 33:
6. Con l’ali di costanza [6:51]
Rinaldo, HWV 7:
7. Lascia ch’io pianga [4:24]
Imeneo, HWV 41:
8. Se potessero i sospir’ miei [6:03]
L’incoronazione di Dario, RV 719:
9. Allegro [2:28]
10. Andante [1:46]
11. Presto [1:04]
La fida ninfa, RV 714:
12. Dite oimè! Ditelo, al fine [2:42]
George Frideric HANDEL
Ariodante, HWV 33:
13. Qui d’amor nel suo linguaggio [2:17]
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17:
14. Cara speme, questo core tu cominici a lusingar [4:34]
Lotario, HWV 26:
Ouverture (excerpt)
15. Gavotta (la tempo ordinario) [2:06]
Arianna in Creta, HWV 32:
16. Salda quercia in erta balza [5:37]



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