Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent display-case for current baroque singing, 15 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Vivaldi: L'Oracolo in Messenia (Audio CD)
L'Oracolo in Messenia is not an opera by Vivaldi, nor even a pasticcio arranged by Vivaldi: it's a pasticcio arranged by Fabio Biondi, which perhaps resembles a work Vivaldi came to Vienna in 1741 to put on; but instead he died there. The named composer should properly be Giacomelli, who wrote most of the music - and very good it is too. I guess that giving a performance in Vienna, and having a good story to tell about Vivaldi's final months, were reasons why Biondi undertook this slightly odd exercise, but the main attraction must have been that he could hand-pick his singers, and hand-pick arias to suit them. If that was his intention, he succeeded brilliantly: what he has given us is an excellent display-case of current baroque singing.

He uses five high voices, three of them well-known. Ann Hallenberg is the wronged Queen, who has four arias, fast, slow, furious and pathetic (in the 18th century way!) which she sings straight, with power and accuracy. It's one of her best outings on record. Vivica Genaux is the Queen's son in search of his kingdom and his love. She too gets four arias. I think of Genaux as DiDonato light, with too much inherent wobble for baroque singing, but she does well here, though sounding rather mature for a young hero. Romina Basso (a rather short allowance of three arias) is the love-interest. She deploys her dark, powerful instrument as intelligently as ever and is a pleasure to hear.

Franziska Gottwald (labelled mezzo, but, like Romina Basso, more of an alto) I have only heard once before (she sang at the Gottingen Festival in 2006) but on this evidence I want to hear more. She sings a straight clear line and in her three arias shows an ability to sing accurate low coloratura which ought to make her an ideal Senesino-substitute. That leaves Julia Lezhneva, about ten years younger than the others, the only voice labelled soprano. She gets just two arias, but both are extreme display-pieces. The first is seven-minute burst of light machine-gun fire by Farinelli's brother Riccardo Broschi, a bit of nonsense Lezhneva sings so well that you believe it's music: the second is an aria actually by Vivaldi (one of the few), a bravura piece with horns, which lets Lezhneva demonstrate her uncanny abilities in baroque coloratura and ornament. Her colleagues do very well in these departments - the general standard is as high as I have heard on disc - but Lezhneva is something else.

The small band plays with fire and unanimity and Biondi keeps things moving. We're told the recording is from concert performances but you wouldn't know it, except for one or two audible digital tape-joins. The audio quality is excellent, with a good allowance of air around the voices.

Downsides? I don't much care for the tenor, who gets four arias, or the falsettist, who gets one. There's too much recitative (as usual in Vivaldi). These problems are easily solved with the next-track button.
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C. Wake
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Location: West Country

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