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Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Adriano in Siria (1734)
Adriano – Yuriy Mynenko (counter tenor)
Emirena – Romina Basso (contralto)
Farnaspe – Franco Fagioli (counter tenor)
Sabina – Dilyara Idrisova (soprano)
Osroa – Juan Sancho (tenor)
Aquilio – Çiğdem Soyarslan (soprano)
Capella Cracoviensis/Jan Tomasz Adamus
rec. August 2015, Radio Krakow, Poland
Full texts and translations included
DECCA 483 0004 [3 CDs: 85:25 +51:25 + 41:09]

Pergolesi set Adriano in Siria in 1734, taking a text from the prolific ‘Metastasio’ – in actuality Pietro Trapassi - that was so popular it survives in sixty versions made over a century; other settings are by Caldara and JC Bach. Pergolesi had a luxury cast headed by the castrato Caffarelli, a role taken in this set by today’s Rolls Royce of countertenors, Franco Fagiolo whose sleek mezzo-inclined voice inevitably divides critical opinion.

The cast is rather strangely distributed amongst five upper voices and one tenor but it does allow those with a penchant for soprano and alto voices a fine opportunity to indulge their enthusiasm. Quite whether it’s in a truly musical cause is another matter, as the opera is uneven in inspiration and weighted toward some virtuoso flourishes for the star turn and, sometimes, a leaden sequence of recitatives and arias that lack dramatically convincing peaks and troughs.

Each of the singers, though, has at least one aria of value. As Adriano, Yuriy Mynenko descends from his kingly chariot to deliver an opening aria of taut authority and there’s plenty of butch vehemence in tenor Juan Sancho’s Sprezza il furor del vento. Fagioli impresses early on with Sul mio cor, his tight mezzo-sounding countertenor dispensing divisions a-plenty with coiled trills, emptily florid perhaps but mightily impressive technically. The sole contralto is Romina Basso, whose voice is highly attractive and whose instincts are level-headed and without idiosyncrasy whilst soprano Çiğdem Soyarslan is equally musical. The long, slow aria the ends Act I is graced by a long oboe solo over pizzicati, a deft instrumental touch.

In a two-act opera of this kind there would be numerous opportunities for felicitous orchestral touches but Pergolesi rather stints them. When he brings out the horns in Act I Scene X it’s startling enough in itself, as it vests some sense of colour to the score which otherwise remains somewhat deferential to the vocal line. Fagioli’s show-stopping Act I closer, Torbido in volto e nero is certainly an ear-tickler, but of more interior expressive moments there are few.

The final act mixes mid-paced arias, includes a pleasing duet, and ends with a brief – I mean brief, it lasts twenty seconds – final chorus for the principals. The harpsichord provides solid support and is not too intrusive – there are only a very few occasions where it sounds over-busy – in the same way that the two double basses are either over-recorded or too energetic in the opening introduction, though it’s certainly athletic and extrovert, though not wholly sensitive playing.

The star turn is Fagioli whose photograph adorns the back of the box, even though Mynenko is arguably a subtler theatrical interpreter. Jan Tomasz Adamus directs ably, though as noted the lack of colouristic opportunities can blunt the contribution of the Capella Caracoviensis who play on original instruments.

Jonathan Woolf



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