Porpora: Germanico in Germania
|Price:||£22.21 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Delivery Details|
|New from||Used from|
Audio CD, Box set, 12 Jan 2018
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
With the purchase of a CD or Vinyl record dispatched from and sold by Amazon, you get 90 days free access to the Amazon Music Unlimited Individual plan. After your purchase, you will receive an email with further information. Terms and Conditions apply. Learn more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
• In this world premiere recording, Max Emanuel Cencic unearths Porpora’s opera Germanico in Germania.
• Cencic is supported by a world-class cast, including star soprano Julia Lezhneva, and Capella Cracoviensis under the baton of Jan Tomasz Adamus.
• Performed on period instruments from a brand new edition, this is a highly authoritative recording.
“Mr Cencic is blessed with the finest countertenor voice of our day.” Opernwelt
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Yes, the singers are good, very good, but they're not the voices Porpora intended. There are two sopranos replacing two countertenors. Or four if you want to be really authentic as it was originally an all male cast. It leaves Cencic as the only countertenor, and indeed as someone else pointed out, using quite that much vibrato. Don't misunderstand me there's nothing wrong with his performance, it's excellent, but it doesn't fit as well with the other voices as it could. And let's be honest even though he's only got three solo arias this is a product that is very much a vehicle for Cencic, as the slightly ludicrous publicity photos make clear. I hope that's fake fur he's wearing; not the dog obviously.
I was tempted to give this three stars when the box broke as I got CD two out, but there is a lot here to enjoy. The orchestra sounds superb, especially the wind section, and there are some lovely arias, Arminio's Parto, ti lasio, o cara stands out. But for me it's not quite the full five stars. It's good, but will it stand out when I get another new recoding of an early eighteenth opera seria next month? There are a lot of them around now.
The written parts are florid. It serves the way of expression very well. The musical style are remicent of Vivaldi.
This is another opera I was totally unfamiliar with. I am so pleased to have come across this, purely by accident1
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
However, rival DG and EMI (we're talking the 1960s - 90s of course) diversified their repertoire much more than Decca: DG was the first "major" label to go into period performance recordings (It is to DG Archiv that we owe some of Gardiner's best early recordings of Handel and Bach), and EMI made a strong impression (pardon the pun) on the romantic concerto and symphonic repertoire). I generalize, of course, but only as an introduction to what I'm about to write.
Considering that opera has always been Decca's forte, you'd expect them to produce an immaculate cast of singers accompanied by a superlative orchestra directed by a genius conductor, recording in a studio with ample time to not just get it right but get it perfect. Niccolò Porpora (1686 – 1768) is composer particularly deserving of such attention. Equal in fame as composer and voice teacher (his most famous student was one of the biggest singer superstars ever, Carlo Broschi aka "il Farinelli", who would make the stupendous sum of $50 million (today's cash) in one opera season and ancillary private concerts when he was introduced in London in 1734*). Ronaldo or Lebron probably wouldn't haggle too much of a club offered them that kind of money for a season in our over-the-top sports celebrity salary times. His other claim to fame that has kept his name, if not his operas, in audiences' minds throughout the centuries is the fact that the young Haydn was his valet for an unknown length of time around 1752. Haydn may have starved and frozen in the position, but he did say later on that he learned the fundametals of his craft from Porpora without losing any physical fundamentals..
I could get into a lot more music history when it comes to Porpora's relations with Handel, whose paths crossed rather often from Handel's first stay in Italy to Porpora's sojourn in England. But that would require an entire book, so find one on Amazon on your own. Suffice it to say that Porpora was considered a worthy competition for Handel by a large part of London's operatic elites in the 1730s. Considering the quality of Handel's output during that time Porpora's achievement was a remarkable one even in a city hell-bent on partisanship as it was (sufficiently to hire Locatelli initially, who composed an operatic disaster and proved to be more loco than telli in the process). No doubt Handel and Porpora pushed each other to new heights from the moment they met in 1710.
If you had asked a well-educated musician about Porpora between about 1760 until the early 2000's, s/he'd have said "Oh, that's the guy who taught Haydn and Farinelly, right?" However, as period opera performances have taken off over the last 6 decades, we've rediscovered Vivaldi, Handel (his operas), Zelenka, Telemann, A.[nd] Scarlatti, and have started discovering a few more recently since there is a certain prestige in being the first to ever record a work that was last heard sometime in the 1730s that actually proves to be music of a very high caliber even when compared to those we already knew long ago (Bach, Handel and D.Scarlatti) as well as those recently discovered (viz. above).
Since the 1994 French-Italian biopic "Farinelli", in which Derek Lee Ragin's (countertenor) and Ewa Mallas - Godlewska' (soprano) voices were mixed by computer in order to approximate what people today think a castrato's voice must have sounded like during the days when it was acceptable to castrate young choir boys whose voice was about to turn in the hope of a stellar solo career, in which Porpora's meltingly beautiful aria "Alto Giove" became an instant hit (or "re-hit"). Certainly, if there is a region of musical achievement that has been ignored for far too long, it is the Neapolitan school of composers of the 17th and 18th centuries, whose scions more or less invented opera buffa in the early 1700s and together with the Bolognese-Milanese school of composers introduced the stylistic traits that would catch on in the rest of Europe in the form of the Classical style of J.C. Bach, Haydn, Boccherini and Mozart.
"Alto Giove" has since been performed and recorded by all counter tenors and sopranos serious about making mark on the baroque opera repertoire, resulting in a slow Porpora revival (people were still busy recording Handel and Vivaldi operas for the first time in 1994, and it has taken a while to commit all of their prodigious output to CDs, hence they're only getting serious about Porpora now that all the Handel and Vivaldi "first recording and performance ever since the original performance in 17..." bragging rights have been taken).***
thus we arrive at one of the first recordings of an entire Porpora opera ever to be undertaken by what is a stellar lead and strong supporting cast - on paper - and a top classical music recording company.
Max Emanuel Cencic (Arminio) sings the leading role. Cencic's star has been rising as Jaroussky has - arguably or not - entered his golden years as the best counter tenor alive (and less arguably the finest ever since counter tenors were "invented" in the 1950s-60s.**** Cencic has a very impressive voice with a range and technique that is rivalled by very few today, Jaroussky being one of the few who has been able to do so. I have always found Jaroussky's sound by far the most beautiful of any living countertenor, and at his peak, his technique allowed him to sing any role in the baroque repertoire no matter how high or fast it went. The trade-off for the beauty of his voice is in its volume; he would be very hard pressed to fill a theater beyond the standard baroque era size (600-1200 seats at most). Throw him on stage at the Met in NYC and you might as well throw him off the boat in the middle of the Pacific and ask him to sing. Cencic's voice is clearly much more powerful (even without the help of the mics, but more about that below), he can do anything Jaroussky can or could, but his sound is not nearly as smooth, variable and polished as Jaroussky's. This recording is a clear demonstration of my contention. Cencic brings a lot of drama to the role, but in the fast arias he sounds like he OD'd on steroids and amphetamines, while the slower arias are rather lacking in his ability to change the timbre of his voice to produce the soothing effect that the variety written into the music ideally requires. Listen to Germanicus' aria "Nasce Da Valle Impura Vapor Che In Alto Ascende." There isn't much you can put your finger on, but listening to Cencic, one would wish for just a BIT more change in the speed and width of the vibrato and less raw a tone to suit the mood of the A section and as a contrast to the more dramatic B section of the aria, which sounds just perfect as Cencic sings it.
Julia Lezhneva (Arsinda) has the voice and technique for singing this repertoire, but has some issues she needs to fix. First, she has an odd tendency to make strange inflexions in volume towards the end of descending passages. Second, she has an excellent trill technique, but she uses it too often in ways that are quite inexplicable to me, especially as ornamentation on fast notes in fast passages, which makes one wonder if she's trilling or singing with a vibrato that makes a passage sound like it's from a 33rpm LP played at 78rpm. Why the conductor, Jan Tomasz Adamus has her sing an aria like "Veder Vicino Il Suo Contento" at the ridiculously fast speed he allows is simply perplexing and does the singer no service or favor, though it may well be he had very little say about the tempo when working with this established primadonna. It appears as if Lezhneva and Adamus had more than a few disagreements about the tempi of her arias. When Adamus starts an aria in a perfectly good tempo, he starts rushing even before she enters (one can just imagine her shooting daggers at him from her eyes and waving her hands like windmills in a cat 5 hurricane during the instrumental intro), whereupon she proceeds to push the tempo even further to speeds that remind one of the lovely dress-making scene in Walt Disney's animated classic. "Cinderella" Just listen to her aria "Sorge Dall'Onde"! Finally, her passaggio is somewhat uneven in the chest register and her Italian diction needs some serious work. Other than that's she's absolutely terrific next to Cencic.
Mary-Ellen Nesi (Arminio), has a lovely voice which is one of those that delivers best in this recording. She has good control over the expressive qualities of her vibrato and timbre relative to the dynamics in which she sings, so the soft lilting siciliano rhythm of , e.g.,"Cieli! Il Mio Sposo È Questo" and contrasting B section are a joy to listen to.
Juan Sancho (Segeste) does a good job with a minor role, even if he sounds a bit out of breath when Porpora throws the fast and heavy at him. His 2nd act aria "Scoglio Alpestre In Mezzo All'Onde" is a real beach and makes one wonder if Porpora really hated the tenor he wrote it for. If Tartini complained that Vivaldi wrote his arias with the violin in mind more than the human voice, he should have opined about this aria. Why Sancho uses so much lower stomach staccato singing in the fast arias is a bit perplexing as well, though; he isn't making his life easier for himself, that's for sure.
Dilyara Idrisova (Rosmonda) also has a very pleasant voice that handles the technical demands of the score with easy fluency and is able to pull the listener into her performance as a good singer should. Her bravura aria "Dite, Che Far Degg'Io?", though perhaps not the most difficult of all her solo appearances, is sung with great verve and technical delivery. I'd like to hear more of her, just like I would of Bennari.
Hasnaa Bennani (Cecina) is the real find on this recording. She has a meltingly sweet voice that handles the Neapolitan style appoggiaturas with the utmost grace, controls her vibrato from full stop to very expressive with perfection and has a perfectly developed untampered intonation which just squeezes dissonances to the point where you want to start singing "Flow my tears." And I love her free ornamentation in the repeat of the A section of her aria "Serbami La Tua Fede" (and elsewhere) - done with exquisite taste and just right. Please bring her back in a bigger role in a better recording, Decca!!!
After an interminable secco recitative dialogue at the begining of Act 3 (Handel would never have done something so stupid dramatically as open up a new act with 7 minutes of "bla bla bla", but maybe it took longer for Porpora's audiences to settle down and stop talking than was the case with Handel (those that paid any attention to the music at all instead of drinking, eating, gambling and, behind closed shutters as some period sources would have it, fornicating - who knows? The trio that follows, "Temi Lo Sdegno Mio, Perfido Traditore" makes up for the boredom in the beginning and shows off the three best singers in this recording at once. Cencic pulls back nicely and blends with the two female voices perfectly, so he CAN alter his timbre and vibrato at will. To put it in Jungian terms, perhaps it's just his solo "superego" that takes over a bit too much when he's singing alone. He's got lots of time to balance things out if he doesn't push his voice too much (as I fear Jaroussky has) and becomes a bit more mellow.
The Capella Cracoviensis under Jan Tomasz Adamus is rather disappointing. I'm not sure it's entirely their fault, to be fair. Beyond disagreeing about tempi with Lezhnyeva the recording is quite execrably done by the recording technicians. All too often Cencic is allowed to drown out the orchestral accompaniment, the horns seem to be playing directly into the mics when they show up (Lord knows valveless horns need little amplification as it is) and the sound is flat and featureless. That being said, the orchestra isn't very delicate or sweet-sounding when it's supposed to be and often sounds dynamically uneven. Perhaps there were too many cooks involved in the preparation of this recording. If the whole thing had been managed by a Fabio Biondi, Gardiner, Jacobs or another more established and experienced conductor, I doubt the sonic outcome, overall, would have been what it is in this recording. No disparagement to the fine musicians of Capella Cracoviensis, but I wonder if Decca wanted to save some money around the edges of the production budget by teaming the singers up with an orchestra that isn't as expensive as some more towards the west, geographically speaking. But I speculate about things that I wot none of, as is often the case.
Regardless, you need to take your period instrument opera productions under better advisement, Decca. This one is not up to the standard I would expect from a "legacy" label. In the end, it's easier and cheaper for everyone if you just invest all that's needed into making a truly 1st class opera production recording like you have in the past. Re-release more of your old catalog items at budget prices to finance your new productions, fer chrissake. If small labels can make recordings that are so much better, then someone is doing something wrong.
I'm glad I got the recording, but I wouldn't recommend it as the first baroque opera recording that you introduce your friends to unless they're either singers or audiophiles.
* We know he got paid 4,000 pound sterling for a season, and that private appearances commanded such high fees that it has been estimated he earned another 1,000 - 1,500 pounds during his time off and the summer. We know the weight and purity in gold that the pound sterling was pegged at during that time, so an online historical gold value to cash converter calculation combined with an online present value of a given sum in pounds in 1734 gives us a ballpark range of what he was paid in our terms. I say "ballpark because you then have to choose whether you base your calculation on purchasing power, the cost of a basket of goods or investment value, all of which yield different results - I chose the middle value for the purpose of the calculation. Go ahead and check my numbers if you want to argue with me.)
** Being born in poverty, Haydn's dirty clothes disgusted the better-offs around him, but after becoming a choir boy, his distance (presumably his church vestments as well) and singing impressed those who heard him, because in 1739 he was brought to the attention of the director of music in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, who happened to be visiting Hainburg, Haydn't home town, and was looking for new choirboys. Haydn passed his audition with Reutter, and after several months of further training (one hopes in singing only even at a Catholic institution) Haydn moved to Vienna in 1740, where he worked for the next nine years as a chorister. By 1749, Haydn had matured physically but descended vocally to the point that he was no longer able to sing high choral parts. Empress Maria Theresa herself complained to Reutter about his singing, calling it "crowing." One day, Haydn carried out a prank, snipping off the pigtail of a fellow chorister, which also demonstrated his descent morally from being a Catholic choirboy; Haydn was first caned, then summarily dismissed and sent into the streets. He had the good fortune to be taken in by a friend who shared his family's crowded garret room with Haydn for a few months. Haydn immediately began his pursuit of a career as a freelance musician.Haydn struggled at first, working at many different jobs: as a music teacher, as a street serenader, and eventually, in 1752, as valet–accompanist for Porpora, from whom he later said he learned "the true fundamentals of composition." We don't exactly know how long Haydn studied with Porpora because the year of Porpora's return from Vienna to Naples is unknown.
*** Makes you wonder why contemporary composers don't study Porpora's music a bit more since he made Haydn so famous that his music has been standard repertoire for over 200 years and Porpora's own works are being rediscovered. But do take the time to listen to the many recordings on YouTube, of which Jaroussky's is still unsurpassed in my opinion (however, watch out for abbreviated videos in which the singers omit the A section da capo). It is one of the most gorgeous arias written by any composer, Handel, Bach and the rest of 'em included.
**** For those not too familiar with voice types, a "counter tenor" is a male singer with his physique completely intact, but who can sing the repertoire that was written for castrati in the 17th - early 19th centuries. If male singer developed ideally after castration, he was able to achieve a vocal range that spans 3-4 octaves, being able to reach the high notes that a trained female voice can reach today and low notes that lie in the middle of a male tenor's range today with equal strength. In addition to the vocal power produced by the larger lung capacity and other gender-specific attributes that come with being male, castrati were trained to sing in a "bel canto" style that encompassed extremely fast runs, wide jumps in range and exceptional breath control. The relatively few roles for castrati composed by Mozart and Rossini that have remained in the repertoire were sung by women in trousers after the last role for a castrato in an opera was written by Meyerbeer in 1824. The roles written for castrati are challenging even for a well-trained female voice, mostly because of the range they require. Cecilia Bartoli's recordings of castrato arias provide an idea of the difficulties of these parts. Now, countertenors existed in the 17th and 18th centuries as well, primarily in England and France, where the idea of castration never gained the popularity it did in Italy because of papal prohibitions of females performing on stage, in church, during lent, etc. etc. etc. These "counter-tenors (or haute-contre in French) were trained falsetto singers using their normal voice with the ability to switch to falsetto, and while they could go a bit above the natural range of a tenor, it wasn't by nearly as much as a castrato, and their voice lost power in the high register (generally speaking). Today countertenors primarily sing in falsetto voice, partly because of changes in human physiology (we have gotten a lot taller on average since the 18th century, which has elongated the vocal chords and enabled tall males to sing higher with more power using a falsetto voice (typically, a countertenor would be a baritone singer if not trained in falsetto singing because of his stature; short fat guys become tenors and can go higher than a baritone in their natural voice, but don't have much of a falsetto voice - pardon, once again, the generalization). The most visible person of the countertenor revival in the twentieth century was Alfred Deller, an English singer and champion of authentic early music performance. Deller initially identified as an "alto", but his collaborator Michael Tippett recommended the archaic term "countertenor" to describe his voice. In the 1950s and 60s, his group, the Deller Consort, was important in increasing audiences' awareness (and appreciation) of Renaissance and Baroque music. Deller was the first modern countertenor to achieve fame, and has had many prominent successors. Benjamin Britten wrote the leading role of Oberon in his setting of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960) especially for Deller. One of the finest early countertenors in the modern sense was Paul Eswood in the 1960s-70s, followed by Rene Jacobs (who could sing higher than anyone in his time, though not always very beautifully or in tune), and a plethora of others since. Just as a byline, a natural male soprano voice CAN occur by an accident of nature with all male organs intact, but it is exceedingly rare. Russell Oberlin was such a natural male soprano who had a lovely voice and sang many Bach and Handel roles in the 1960s-early 70s. He can be seen and heard on YouTube for those interested. I am not aware of any other such singers who have reached his level of skill since, however.
PS Disclaimer: I plagiarize Wikipedia freely in the footnotes (sometimes elsewhere), but am in the fortunate position of not being enrolled at a college or university (I dropped out of high school, actually), so running this review through a text comparison program and calling me before a peer ethics committee ain't gonna happen Just be thankful for the stolen tidbits accompanied by my dry wit and take them for what they are: opinionated drivel like the rest of my review (that's the legal disclaimer so forget about suing me too).