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Samuel Mariņo (soprano)
Care pupille
Händelfestspielorchester Halle/Michael Hofstetter
rec. 2019, Volkspark, Halle, 28-31 October 2019
ORFEO C998201 [71.36]

The young male soprano Samuel Mariņo, was born and studied in Venezuela. Later he moved to Europe and studied opera singing at the Conservatoire de Paris and now works regularly with Barbara Bonney in Salzburg as his mentor. He has specialised in Baroque opera and has a passion for rediscovering music from that period and perform it with HIP ensembles. Male sopranos are still a rarity – the most famous representative of this Fach, Max Emanuel Cencic, retrained to counter-tenor some years ago. Mariņo, just as Cencic, has a beautiful, crystal clear voice, technically accomplished and with a superb trill. He is a stylish singer, careful over nuances but he also has dramatic power and in some of the more outgoing numbers in this recital he delivers thrillingly whole-hearted and full-throated singing with impressive strength.

The repertoire here, arias from operas by Handel and Gluck, is not chosen arbitrarily. Though the difference of age was almost 30 years, they met and even appeared together in a concert at the Haymarket Theatre in London on 25 March 1746. However, none of the works that were performed at that concert can be heard on this disc. Handel is represented with three operas premiered during the 1736/37 season and thus belong to his late operas. Among his total of 42 operas they are numbers 35, 36 and 38. Of the four Gluck operas Il Tigrane and La Sofonisba are from the early 1740s when he was active in Italy, Antigono (1756) was also premiered in Italy, while La Corona was composed in Vienna for the Emperor’s name day on 4 October 1765, but the emperor suddenly died a few weeks before the celebrations and the Azione teatrale was postponed. Almost forever it seemed but on 13 November 1987 it was belatedly premiered at Schönbrunn. Today its title might entice some adventurous company to revive the little one-act piece with a text by Metastasio. Interestingly the four roles were intended for four female members of the Royal family, and hearing Atalanta’s highly dramatic and virtuoso aria sung here with tremendous power and brilliance, Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria must have been a formidable singing actress.

Atalanta, the swift-footed huntress in Greek mythology, was also granted her own opera by Handel in 1736, but the three arias we hear here are instead sung by Meleagro, who is in love with Atalanta. The first of these, Care selve is one of Handel’s most beautiful arias, often heard out of context in recitals and recordings, and Mariņo sings it caressingly. Non sarā poco is more of a showpiece with virtuoso and powerful singing with zest and infectious ‘go’. The medium tempo M’allontano, sdegnose pupille is also from Handel’s top drawer – which almost all his arias are. Before the Atalanta excerpts Samuel Mariņo had introduced himself with a rousing interpretation of Alessandro’s aria from Berenice, filled with tastefully applied embellishments. Another highlight is Sigismondo’s aria from Arminio. It’s a long number with an opening solo for oboe – even though I initially thought it was a trumpet – and then it develops into a duet with imitation and dialogues and fireworks in the highest division. At the end it’s the oboe that gets the last word. This is a tour de force for soprano as well as oboe. After the listening session I couldn’t resist playing this piece again – and I was just as stunned as the first time.

The Gluck section covers almost 2/3 of the total contents and here are rarities galore. Several arias are World Premiere Recordings. Antigono was commissioned for the carnival in Rome in 1755. The libretto was Metastasio’s and was set to music more than fifty times during the 18th century. We hear Berenice’s aria with preceding recitative. (Berenice also got her own opera by Handel but it is uncertain whether Gluck had heard it). Here we can notice that the strings are playing parts of the accompaniment pizzicato, and typically for Gluck is his expressive recitative. The sinfonia that follows is in three brief movements with a swinging opening Allegro. Demetrio’s aria is beautifully contemplative. The long aria from the early La Sofonisba is another showpiece, never before recorded and the concluding Care pupille, which also lends its name to the whole album, is another first-timer. It is from Il Tigrane and just a few weeks ago I reviewed a disc with excerpts from three composers, setting Il Tigrane. One of them was Gluck and those excerpts were also first recordings, so now we can add this disc to the list of Gluck premieres.

The Händelfestspielorchester Halle under Michael Hofstetter delivers first-class playing on period instruments, rhythmically keen and alert. I hope to hear them again, why not in a sequel to the present recording with Samuel Mariņo, who is a real find. I urge lovers of good singing to explore this superb singer.

Göran Forsling

George Frideric HANDEL (1685 – 1759)
Berenice, Regina di Egitto, HWV 38:
1. Aria of Alessandro: Che sarā quando amante accarezza [5:03]
Atalanta, HWV 36:
2. Aria of Meleagro: Cara selve [3:00]
3. Aria of Meleagro: Non sarā poco [5:26]
4. Aria of Meleagro: M’allontano, sdegnose pupille [5:50]
Arminio, HWV 36:
5. Aria of Sigismondo: Quella fiamma [8:35]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714 – 1787)
Antigono, WV 1.20:
6. Scena and Aria of Berenice: Berenice, che fai … Perché, se tanti siete [9:00]
7. I. Allegro [1:50]
8. II. Andante [2:14]
9. III. Presto [0:54]
10. Aria of Demetrio: Giā che morir deggio [5:49]
(World Premiere Recording)
La Sofonisba, WV 1.5:
11. Aria of Massinissa: Tornate sereni [9:04]
(World Premiere Recording)
La Corona, WV 1.36:
12. Aria of Atalanta: Quel chiaro rio [9:48]
Il Tigrane, WV 1.4:
13. Aria of Oronte: Care pupille [5:03]
(World Premiere Recording)

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