Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

14 Jun 2005

VIVALDI: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto

Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto for the Venetian theater of Sant’Angelo in the fall of 1716. While Vivaldi had, by its debut, been an important member of Venetian musical culture for over a decade as a violinist and composer, he had begun composing only three years earlier. Domenico Lalli, his librettist, who settled in Venice in 1710 after fleeing his native Naples upon being charged with embezzlement, was one of the most important librettists of the first decades of the eighteenth century.

Antonio Vivaldi: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto (RV 700)
Simonetta Cavalli (Arsilda); Lucia Sciannimanico (Lisea); Elena Cecchi Fedi (Mirinda); Nicky Kennedy (Barzane); Joseph Cornwell (Tamese); Sergio foresti (Cisardo); Alessandra Rossi (Nicandro).
Modo Antiquo and the Coro da Camera Italiano, Federico Maria Sardelli (cond.)
cpo 999 740-2 [3CDs]

Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto for the Venetian theater of Sant'Angelo in the fall of 1716. While Vivaldi had, by its debut, been an important member of Venetian musical culture for over a decade as a violinist and composer, he had begun composing only three years earlier. Domenico Lalli, his librettist, who settled in Venice in 1710 after fleeing his native Naples upon being charged with embezzlement, was one of the most important librettists of the first decades of the eighteenth century.

This recording features the Baroque orchestra of Modo Antiquo, an ensemble with particular expertise in the music of Vivaldi and his contemporaries. Founded in 1984 under the direction of Sardelli, the group has made several recordings with Amadeus, cpo and Tactus, including the first complete recording of Vivaldi's cantatas. They have also performed at many European early music festivals, including the Italian festival Opera Barga, for which this production of Arsilda was prepared in 2001. Sardelli is working on a critical edition of Arsilda for Istituto Antonio Vivaldi; in his authored excerpt in the liner notes, he points out his intention to implement both a musical and a musicological approach towards Vivaldi's operas. The music in this recording is based on the autograph of the work and is described as a "reconstruction of the original version" that emphasizes the first arias written rather than the composer's later changes and additions for the 1716 performances.

Arsilda is a typical early eighteenth-century plot in its use of love intrigues, mistaken identities, and musical features such as simile arias. As such, it perfectly encapsulates the contemporary Pier Jacopo Martello's tongue-in-cheek satire of opera of the day, which argued that opera, in order to be entertaining, should avoid following Aristotelian rules of drama and instead feature favored scenic conventions, such as prison and sleep scenes. Arsilda employs several such scenarios, including a hunt that takes place in a verdant forest and a dungeon scene. Moreover, its story hinges on concealed identities. Reliant on a pair of twins for its main intrigue--one male and one female--the story opens with Lisea, disguised as her brother Tamese and posing as King, and Arsilda, engaged to be married to "Tamese." We learn that Tamese has been lost at sea and is presumed dead, and in order to preserve the throne, Lisea has adopted his identity. Arsilda is puzzled and disappointed by "Tamese's" lack of interest, while Lisea/Tamese, for her part, is angry when she learns that her true fiancé, Barzane, has betrayed her and instead pursues Arsilda. The true Tamese, meanwhile, is disguised as the palace gardener, and both Arsilda and Lisea have an unexplained attraction to him.

While Vivaldi's instrumental music has been widely known for some time, only in recent decades have his operas attracted such attention. There is, therefore, a relative dearth of recordings of his operas, and any contribution is appreciated. Modo Antiquo's contibution is a quality recording, done on period instruments with highly competent singers. While at times the sound quality of the recording could be more focused, with low frequencies at times overwhelming the vocal lines and occasionally making comprehension of the text difficult, the recording overall gives wonderful insight into Vivaldi's characterizations and skill at both instrumental and vocal writing. Thanks to the efforts of Sardelli and Modo Antiquo, scholars, Vivaldi fans, and opera lovers in general now have an additional example of Vivaldi's early operatic style.

Many of the arias employ striking instrumentation to help convey the sense of the text. Fipple-flutes are used for pastoral settings, for example, while horns are used for the hunting scenes. Simile arias appear in abundance, such as Arsilda's Act 2, sc. 12 aria "Son come farfalletta" where muted violins and fast arpeggios imitate the fluttering of wings, and Mirinda's "Io son quel Gelsomino" in Act 1, Sc. 15, which imitates the blowing of wind through leafy branches with imitation between voice and strings. All of the singers on this recording convey the individual characterizations with knowledgeable awareness of performance practice and attention to phrasing, dynamics, and ornamentation. Particularly charming are the arias for Mirinda, the naïaut;ve maid, sung by Elena Cecchi Fedi who has a flexible voice perfectly suited to the virtuosic arias often given to this character. Equally pleasing is Lucia Sciannimanico as Lisea and Sergio Foresti as Cisardo.

Dr. Mary Macklem
University of Central Florida

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):