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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars With a philosophical flourish..., 17 Sep 2013
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis) (Audio CD)
...Cato throws himself upon his sword. Or possibly not. Metastasio's first libretto, employed by Leonardo Vinci in 1728, involved Cato slowly dying across the second and third acts. Receiving a somewhat mixed reception, he rewrote the libretto so that in Leonardo Leo's 1729 production Cato's death was offstage and simply reported. Vivaldi's 1737 setting took the knife to Metastasio, and "in order to render the drama shorter and more cheerful in this season of spring" somewhat bizarrely removed Cato's suicide completely and instead has him entering into a rather improbable reconciliation with Caesar.

Despite such historical liberties, the opera, Vivaldi's third and final one in Verona, was an unqualified success, though from this recording it's difficult to feel that this is Vivaldi at his best (the first act is lost, so here it is a reconstruction using some borrowed Vivaldi arias and some newly composed ones inspired by his instrumental music), and it doesn't really catch fire. Perhaps this is partly down to Curtis and the performers. It lacks a little of the verve and sparkle that Curtis is capable of, and the great cast do not in general feel entirely at their best. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu as Catone feels strangely tremulous in parts. Soprano Roberta Mameli (Cesare), mezzo Ann Hallenberg (Emilia), contralto Sonia Prina (Marzia), mezzo Romina Basso (Fulvio) all put in performances which are very good but not truly superb by their own standards (Hallenberg probably the pick of the bunch), and in the case of Mameli and Prina in particular the recording catches too much of their breathing. Soprano Emőke Baráth (Arbace) is fine but her Italian diction I find very unclear.

The booklet contains notes on the first act reconstruction, historical notes on the opera and a synopsis (all in French/English/Italian/German), plus full libretto with English and French translations. Just about scrapes four stars. Perhaps more one for the completists.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever reconstruction..., 17 May 2014
By 
Iain C. Davidson "iain1825" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis) (Audio CD)
'Catone In Utica' is one of Vivaldi's last operas and only the last two acts of it exist. I already own the older Malgoire recording of this opera and I have always enjoyed it very much. However, some of the soloists in that recording are a little on the rough side so I was looking forward to Naive tackling the piece as part of their ongoing Vivaldi project. In large part, I am not disappointed with this new version.

A completely new first act has been reconstructed for this recording, the arias adapted from orchestral pieces or reworked arias from other operas. This has been done by Alessandro Ciccolini who has also composed the linking recitatives and I think he has made a very good job of it. This 'new' first act and the two original Vivaldi acts are brought together in the hugely enjoyable playing of the ever reliable Il Complesso Barocco under their conductor Alan Curtis. The sound is very good with good balance between orchestra and soloists. The title role is taken by Topi Lehtipuu, a characterful tenor who sounds convincing in the role of this elder statesman - given that Lehtipuu is still a young man, I'm not sure that that's entirely a good thing but it works for this recording! As usual in baroque opera, the title role is not necessarily the most important - that honour probably goes to Cesare, sung beautifully and with considerable character here by soprano Roberta Mamelli. I have to say though that she does not eclipse Cecilia Gasdia in the earlier recording who is arguably even more beautiful in the seductive 'Se mai senti' and just as brilliant in the martial 'Se in campo armato'. Cesare's love interest (and Catone's daughter) is Marzia, sung here by Sonia Prina. I always enjoy Prina's singing but I probably prefer her in male roles - her authoritative tones just seem better suited to them. Vengeful Roman matron Emilia is sung by Ann Hallenberg, one of my favourite mezzo sopranos and she is simply dazzling in both of the astonishingly flamboyant original arias given to her by Vivaldi - I especially enjoyed the playing of the orchestra too in her third act aria 'Nella foresta'. Another favourite of mine, Romina Basso sings Emilia's love interest Fulvio and is also very good as is (new to me) sweet toned soprano Emoke Barath as the spurned prince Arbace.

The only real problem I have with the whole enterprise is the (too me) overly fussy ornamentation of the aria repeats. I believe Ciccolini is also responsible for these. This will be a personal thing of course but I prefer my decorations rather more subtle and understated than they are here. I'm also not overly fond of extended, self indulgent vocal cadenzas at the end of the arias (of which there are several here). There is too little decoration in the Malgoire and too much in the new Curtis but, on the whole, the newer recording is to be preferred but...it is not the simple victory that I expected it to be and I'm glad that I own both!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and beautiful, 22 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis) (Audio CD)
A fabulous piece of music, Lively, crisp and beautifully sung. So stunning that I have booked tickets to see it performed in Paris next January.
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Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis)
Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis) by Antonio Vivaldi (Audio CD - 2013)
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