This is one of the absolutely best recording of single arias by a solo singer. The blend of extraordinary abilities of La Kermes with phenomenally splendid music creates a masterpiece that delights the sense of hearing boundlessly.
It is astonishing how 18th century Neapolitan music conjures up in mind the very place where this music was created - a vibrant, sun-lit, sea-caressed bay of Naples, a land of pleasure since ancient times, with Imperial Roman villas surrounding the fabulous coast from Baja and Capo Miseno to Villa Jovis on Capri, with the specter of Tiberius entertaining himself lavishly, looking over the sea from Costiera Amalfitana to Posilippo; nearby that hill, whose beauty was extolled by all who laid an eye on Posilippo, from Glinka to Goethe, side by side with Cumaen Sybil living in her sulfurous cave, Solfatara fumes and smokes, whispering to Vesuvius trumpet. Today the place strikes a visitor with its beauty all the same, proudly displaying its royal wonders at Capodimonte, Palazzo Reale, Piazza del Plebiscito; Napoli's splendid architecture in Santa-Lucia, ancient and barocco treasures along Decumanus Inferiore, Virgil's Castlel dell'Ovo, Aragonese Castello Nuovo - so much there is, in Napoli, that it is impossible not to be overtaken by the never-ending eruption of vibrant nature and culture.
Naturally, the Bourbons had built a theater worthy of celebrating the glory of the city of "Cosi fan Tutte" - Teatro San Carlo. The Teatro was built earlier than La Scala, and was an envy of whole Europe.
It is during that time that arias presented on this recording were created; many of them were premiered in Teatro San Carlo. The whole Neapolitan school of music of 18th century can be sampled on this CD, with composers as Nicola Porpora, Giovanni Pergolesi, Leonardo Leo, Leonardo Vinci and Johann Adolf Hasse.
Their predecessor and the founder of Neapolitan tradition was Alessandro Scarlatti, and his influence could still be heard in works of Porpora, a major competitor of Handel later on in London. The music on this CD reflects this tremendous outpouring of artistic creation, truly a lava eruption of myriads of talents.
My favorite (although all of them are so excellent that it is hard to pick a favorite) is Pergolesi - I think his music is the most multi-layered and manages to play on soul's strings as nobody else's on this disk. Again we hear here that it is for a good reason Stravinsky esteemed Pergolesi so highly. The aria (n.7 on the CD) "Lieto cosi talvolta" from "Adriano in Siria" is simply superb compositionally; with Simone Kermes singing it attains a divine proportion - so mesmerizing is the beauty of this piece. One can dream of Adrian's villa in Tivoli, and imagine the story of this opera - probably the love from the first sight that Adrian was struck with when he first saw Antinous.
The next amazing piece is the breath-taking "Come nave..." by Hasse - there is also a recoding available on YouTube for this, Kermes is an incredible actress!
It is also noteworthy that most of the arias on this recording are on libretti by Pietro Metastasio, a major poet of that time, so famous and sought-after that he was summoned to Vienna where he ended his days and was buried in Michaelerkirche, right at the entrance to Hapsburg's Hofburg. For a non-Italian speaker it is impossible to fully appreciate the beauty of his poetry, but even with some knowledge of Italian one can notice the pleasant rhyming of his verses conducive of being put to music.
Recalling all that make one feel an urge to fly to Napoli speedily, immerse oneself into its beauty, marvel on the whole bay from Certosa San Martino or from Capodimonte, and finish the day in Teatro San Carlo. Years ago I had that pleasure, and luckily I filmed one baroque opera buffa in Teatro San Carlo - "Il Convitato di Pietra", an opera by Giacomo Tritto, a contemporary of the composers on this CD, but less famous, yet this opera on Don Giovanni and his servant Pulcinella (that is a distinct feature of Neapolitan opera buffa) was absolutely marvelous and hilarious, it was written BEFORE Mozart yet one can hear Mozart's Don Giovanni here! I include the YouTube link in comments section, even though Kermes's recording is concerned with opera seria.
I only wish that all the operas on this CD would eventually be staged on location, repeating their premier, be it Teatro San Carlo, which still survives from the original date, to Dresden or Teatro San Giovanni Chrisostomo in Venice, which today has become Teatro Malibran, with performances running regularly.
Brava, La Kermes, for bringing us this tremendous music!
She is really a singer capable to fill up a CD, no - dozens of CDs with her incredible talent, the voice that dazzles and dances, expressing every nuance through a combination of sheer beauty of the voice and virtuoso technique - her pianissimos, diminuendos, legato, leaps of tempi and volume, her amazing range - all is delivered with a complete vocal control. I hardly can recall any singer who can sounds as dazzling - perhaps Sandrine Piau, Arleen Auger, Sutherland in her best years...
Definitely Simone Kermes's phenomenal artistic impression is much closer to the fabled castrati who starred in their day, like Caffarelli, than any modern countertenors, like Jaroussky, whose technique is just as virtuosic, but the voice itself sounds dull when listened to for more than ten minutes; Jaroussky's live sound compared to CD-Kermes is like an iTune compared to live performance, and one can only imagine how Kermes's voice sounds live...
I bow to her in admiration; this recording is a must.