Philippe Jaroussky is alone singing those cantatas and he is by far brilliant and huge enough to fill our ears with the music of some God in some paradise or on some volcano in a northern sea. Every single piece is a moment of perfection. In the first cantata "Alla caccia dell' alme e de cori" he is just as good when expressing the extreme joy of triumphant love like in the first track, or when he changes and becomes dramatic, sad, full of contained fear and resignation in awe in front of the beastlike beauty that has conquered his heart, like in the second track. And he enjoys that situation of being the prey in the clutches of the praying and preying mantis he is in love with, like in his third track. The second cantata "Qual per ignoto calle" is the story of a love journey. The fourth track even compares the path to love to the frightened walk of a wayfarer in an unknown territory with all kinds of dangers, and in this situation our lover will satisfy himself with comfort in the claws of his "bella nemica mia". How can love burn so bright and strong for a woman who does not even condescend to look down at the suffering lover, but that suffering is most delicious in the promise, from no one in particular except the lover's desire, that one day maybe, maybe, maybe that Irene will answer. As usual with Vivaldi the music is a perfect accompaniment to the singing, and the singing is the perfect mate of this music. You know both are fully realized when the singing is kind of a capella and the music stands all by itself. But when music and singing are one we are on the happiest and shiniest Olympus Mount, excited to extreme pleasure by the harshness of the greedily admired woman that our singer loves. That love is strangely rhyming with tears, suffering, longing, non-satisfaction, rejection and yet it remains luminous and happy in its very unhappiness. A short pause with "Orlando furioso" that brings some deeper suffering, lower singing where the alto dominates and the soprano has retired for a while, because that's the beauty of that voice: he is able to compete with all sopranos in the world and yet at the same time he has the range of an alto and thus can cover a very open amplitude of sounds that come absolutely unstrained at both ends. Then a second pause with a prelude after Vivaldi with a theorbo solo. Very relaxing. Then a third cantata comes, "Care Selve, amici prati". Once again the love of this lover who travelled afar to follow his beloved. But he was betrayed and rejected. But the unhappy and unlucky lover who finds himself out of any hope for any satisfaction of his lust finds some solace in nature announcing more the romantic inspiration of many later poets. But this solace in nature is not without some strong anger in his heart but he builds up some strange satisfaction in a virtual love that does not exist except in his own eyes. That level of resignation is admirable and the singing as well as the music both evoke this satisfied suffering of a heart who finds his happiness in the rejection of his love, as if that love could not get consumed since it is not requited. There is in those cantatas a strange impression that we are widely moving away from sacred music and the love of the Holy Virgin in any way, but we retain the total impossibility to satisfy one's love with Mary and Vivaldi shifts it to amorous love with the same absolute emotional and carnal dissatisfaction. It can maybe remind us of the courteous love of the knight for his lady in the Middle Ages, a love that will never get its carnal satisfaction but is satisfied in its very existence in its own self. The intermezzo of the "sonata per violoncello e basso continuo" is just the perfect agitated spiritual atmosphere we need to evoke the tempest under the skull of that satisfied unsatisfied lover. The third movement and second largo is a perfect echo of the suffering lamentation of the longing lover who will get nothing from his love. But our lover gets his dynamism from that very dirge he turns into a conquering march to dissatisfaction in the fourth movement and second allegro. In the next cantata, "Perfidissimo cor! Inique fato!" the loved one is made in a way supernatural since unreachable to any human lover. But the text shifts from a male lover so far to a female rejected lover. That shift is uncatchable except with one indirect word here and there. A short intermezzo with an excerpt from "Tito Manlio" and here the singer assumes openly and clearly the fate of a girl who is neglected in her desire to be loved. The last cantata "Pianti, sospiri e dimandar mercede" starts with the evocation of a woman who treats her lovers like so many toys that have to suffer for her to be satisfied. The lover becomes a boatman who is the prisoner of a treacherous wind that can change from breeze to tempest in one second. The metaphor is then amplified with a direct comparison of the lover on the ocean of love treacherously ruined by the inconstant breeze of his beloved. And justice comes in the last piece with the requiting of that harsh heart when it finally falls in love and finds only rejection and condescending neglect in the men she wants. A sort of promised vengeance to the lover of this beloved who will never know love since she neglects him who loves her. But what a trip in the Eden-like realm of Jaroussky's crystal voice.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID