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Carnevale 1729
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo)
Il pomo d’oro/Stefano Montanari
rec. 2016, Villa San Fermo, Lonigo, Italy
Sung Italian texts provided with translations in German and English
Reviewed in CD stereo
PENTATONE PTC5186678 SACD [52.23 + 46.17]

In the eighteenth century the annual Venice carnival season was a spectacular and extravagant event attracting tourists from far afield by land and sea. City theatres swelled heavy with audiences attracted by the appearance of many celebrated singers and new opera productions.

On Pentatone Swedish mezzo Ann Hallenberg’s new release, Carnevale 1729, is a double CD collection of arias selected from several of the events held at the 1729 season in the republic of Venice. Pertinently 1729 was the year that famous castrato Farinelli made his Venetian debut and other star performers who were attracted to that season’s festival included castrati Senesino, Annibali, Nicolini and Gizzi, soprano Cuzzoni and mezzo-soprano Faustina. In the booklet essay it states that all fourteen arias were performed in just eight weeks of the festival from 26th December 1728 to 27th February 1729.

From the six composers represented on the album Giacomelli, Orlandini, Albinoni, Porpora, Leo and Vinci all but one of the newly discovered arias sung by Hallenberg are stated as being world première recordings. Certainly Hallenberg is a prolific recording artist but I was surprised to read that she has recorded an extraordinary high amount, over forty albums. Her recent release, Farinelli: A Portrait – Live in Bergen, is an admirable collection of late-baroque arias with Les Talens Lyriques under Christophe Rousset on Aparté. Markedly Hallenberg’s recording, Agrippina, comprising of mainly late-baroque arias from eleven composers on the DHM label, was awarded best operatic recital at the International Opera Awards in May 2016.

From start to finish Hallenberg gives an inspiring performance overflowing with invigorating energy and especially impressive is her fluidity and the array of tone colours produced. In this consistent and high standard collection there are three arias which I find especially memorable. Originally sung by castrato Senesino from Giacomelli’s opera Gianguir Cosrovio’s aria “Mi par sentir la bella” is given a rendition of melting beauty by Hallenberg with notable oboe accompaniment. Mezzo-soprano Faustina took the title role in the almost completely rewritten opera Adelaide by Orlandini. Hallenberg gives a remarkable coloratura display in Adelaide’s aria “Non sempre invendicato” revelling in the fast and challenging virtuosic writing. From Porpora’s opera Semiramide riconosciuta the aria “Bel piacer saria d'un core” was sung by castrato Farinelli as Mirteo, brother of heroine Semiramide. Here with glowing singing of unaffected passion from Hallenberg one senses a genuine feeling for the text. Conspicuous throughout is Hallenberg’s facility for moving easily through her range she is blessed with considerable vocal strength too. Consistently when under pressure there is a slight degree of harshness from Hallenberg but it rarely intrudes.

Founded in 2012 I have come across period instrument ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro several times previously notably with the Joyce DiDonato’s album of baroque arias In War & Peace ‒ Harmony Through Music on Erato. Eighteen strong here Il Pomo d'Oro, with Stefano Montanati directing from the baroque violin, bring out extensive nuances from the writing, performing with style, together with responsive use of tempo with an ideal weight that ensures the soloist is never overpowered.

Recorded at the beautiful setting of Villa San Fermo, Lonigo in Italy the engineering team provides on my standard player gratifyingly clear sound with excellent balance between voice and instrumental ensemble. Admirably presented the release benefits from full sung texts with translations provided in English and German. Most helpful and interesting too is the detailed booklet essay “The Carnival of Venice!” from the pen of Holger Schmitt-Hallenberg. I notice there is a discrepancy between the timings given on the back of the box and the individual CD sleeves which is correct. My only grumble is that on each disc there is plenty of available space sadly not utilised to accommodate additional arias.

With this stunning studio album of showstopping late-baroque arias Carnevale 1729 Ann Hallenberg confidently maintains her elevated level of performance. One wonders where the Swedish mezzo will turn for her next project.

Michael Cookson

CD 1
Geminiano GIACOMELLI (1692-1740)
Mi par sentir la bella, [9.43]
Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI (1676-1760)
Non sempre invendicato, [5.38]
O, del mio taro sposo...Quanto bello agl'occhi miei, [15.22]
Scherzo in mar la navicella, [5.44]
Vedra pia liete e belle, [8.40]
Vanne, si, di al mio diletto, [7.11]

CD 2
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671- 1751)
II tuo core in dono accetto, [4.07]
Fior ch'a spuntar si vede, [3.31]
Nicola PORPORA (1686 -1768)
Semiramide riconosciuta
II pastor, se torna aprile, [6.28]
4. *In braccio a mille furie, [3.04]
5. Bel piacer saria d'un core, [8.35]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Catone in Utica
Soffre color del vento, [6.48]
7. Ombra cara, ombra adorata, [9.22]
Leonardo VINCI (1690-1730)
L'abbandono di Armida
Nave altera the in mezzo oll'onde, [4.17]

* Not stated as a world première recording



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