Well, I hesitated for quite a while before buying this set as I already own the Alia Vox (recently re-issued by Naive) set of this opera and really had to convince myself that I needed two recordings of this late Vivaldi opera. I was perfectly happy with my old recording (although I accept that there are all sorts of things wrong with it stylistically) and it is a fine piece. I have to say though that this new recording by Diego Fasolis is much, much better! I just bursts with energy and is conducted with such flair. I Barrochisti are glorious with brass - there are a couple of arias for Aquilio and Tamiri that I just can't stop listening to!
The cast are uniformly excellent. I doubt if there is a countertenor voice out there at the moment that I enjoy as much as Max Cencic (although Franco Fagioli comes very close) and he sings the title role very well indeed. His unfortunate wife Tamiri is sung by my new favourite mezzo soprano, Ruxandra Donose - this lady must record more baroque music; her voice is glorious! Belligerent queen Berenice is also sung with tremendous flair by the ever more impressive Mary Ellen Nesi. Alan Curtis regulars Ann Hallenberg and Karina Gauvin are as distinguished as always in their roles and there are a couple of really good tenors in Daniel Behle and Emiliano Gonzalez Toro.
The whole thing is just splendid and I don't really care if its a little over the top - its just tremendously good fun! Highly recommended.
Since I purchased this recording I must have listened to it fifty times. It's stunning: both Vivaldi's music and also the interpretation. You will not find a better more compelling recording than this. Absolutely astonishing. The last aria is in my opinion the finest piece of music ever written.
Il Farnace is one of Vivaldi's last operas and undoubtedly one of the three or four towering masterpieces he wrote in that genre. It is, therefore, very surprising that it has been recorded so seldom and none of those recordings, including the one under discussion, has fully been of a musical stature that the work merits. Of the two previous recordings, the one first released by Jordi Savall and then, for some mysterious reason, chosen to be repackaged by Naïve in their very reputable Vivaldi series, is a tawdry modernization that cannot be taken seriously by anyone interested in baroque opera. The other, done in Graz and almost impossible to find, is a thoroughly respectable rendition of the 1731 version of the opera; buy it if you can find it, and you will have a well sung and historically correct interpretation of undoubtedly the most beautiful version Vivaldi's masterpiece, but little more. Everyone does a good job, but you won't be swept away either by the singing or what it tells you about Vivaldi.
This newest recording, however, is both ravishing and problematic. Mr. Cencic has most likely the most beautiful voice of any counter tenor that has been recorded. Just hearing his voice alone is worth the price of the disc. The rest of the cast is also very, very good. The interpretation is more or less within the bounds of a historically correct rendition of an early XVIII century Venetian opera. So much for this disc's good points.
The disc's problematic areas are not so serious as to ruin your enjoyment, but they should be taken into consideration: For some bizarre reason, the producers of this disc chose Vivaldi's 1739 version, which, since the manuscript is incomplete, had to be supplemented by borrowings from other versions. More serious than the lacunae, however, is that the revisions that Vivaldi made for the 1739 version hardly improved the work. Perversely, Vivaldi removed one of the most beautiful arias of the 1731 version, "Gelido in ogni vena." Luckily, the producers of the disc saw fit to include it in an appendix at the end of the opera, so we get to hear Mr. Cencic's exquisite rendition of the aria. But it would have been better had we been able to have heard it as part of the opera itself. My other criticism is that Mr. Fasolis and even Mr. Cencic miss no opportunity to insert baroque ornamentation, much of which reaches the limits of what could be considered good taste. There is a tendency to use the opera as a vehicle for amazing technical bravura instead of exploring the beauties of Vivaldi's music itself. But on the other hand, such excesses were also a part of XVIII century Venetian opera.
Being invited to work in Ferrara in 1736 did not turn out well for Vivaldi. He reworked his L'Olimpiade and Ginevra only to be told that what the theatre management really wanted was arrangements of two operas by Johann Adolph Hasse, who was eclipsing him in the estimation of Italian opera lovers. Furthermore, the next year he was summoned back to Venice by the Papal Nuncio and forbidden to return to stage opera in Ferrara. A change of Legates the following year permitted Vivaldi to return once more, with the intention of presenting Siroe re di Persia and a further reworking of his beloved Farnace, first performed in 1727, in the next carnival season. However the failure of Siroe to please the public caused the abrupt cancellation of Farnace, to be replaced by, once more, an opera by Hasse. This 1738 rewrite therefore never saw the light of day.
I had held off buying the Naive/Opus111 recording of Farnace which has been thoroughly panned, so was glad to see this new set. Quite why the 1738 rewrite was selected by conductor Fasolis as opposed to an earlier version is not entirely clear (it seems that there were eight revisions in total but only the 1731 one survives complete if I understand correctly); the notes speak of "a powerful work" which has "its own clearly defined identity, characterised by an extremely refined style of writing and a scrupulous attention to detail", but I'll leave it to others with more artistic judgement than me and who have heard the 1731 variant as to whether this is a valid viewpoint. In any case much of the third act has required reconstruction by appealing to the earlier scores, which perhaps makes the exercise a bit pointless.
As for the performance - well what is there not to like when you've got the incomparable countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic, who sings just as beautifully as you would expect? There are other ever-dependable and solid performers here, mezzos Mary Ellen Nesi & Ann Hallenberg, plus soprano Karina Gauvin. New to me are mezzo Ruxandra Donose and tenors Daniel Behle & Emiliano Gonzalez Toro who also deliver to a high standard - it's a good cast all round. If I have a criticism, stylistically the recording can verge on the excessively florid and perhaps slightly pompous, but certainly not enough spoil the enjoyment of the set.
The three discs come in cardboard sleeves with booklet in hinged cardboard box. The booklet contains historical notes, notes on the various scores and 1738 third act reconstruction, synopsis and libretto with translations (English/French/German).
Cencic is brilliant in this as is Gauvin. I have not given it a 5star rating because the third act seems overly burdened with recitatives and without the 2 extra arias added at the end would be rather dull. Orchestral colours and attack and Cencic's voice all wonderful and fabulously gender bending!
Exceptional quality. Reconstructed integral score of Acts 1 & 2 as written by Vivaldi from 2nd edition, with Act 3 ( which is lost) having been reconstructed from previous Vivaldi first edition with some cuts and additions.
Brilliant melodies and powerful emotions. The singers are very good and the voice distribution is excellent.
Ruxandra Donose a dark mezzo, but with agility is well suited to Queen Tamiri. Mary-Ellen Nesi, is full-bodied and biting, and is ideally suited to the role of Berenice the vengeful mother-in-law. Ann Hallenberg, is full of intelligence and finesse in the role of Selinda, Farnace’s sister. Mezzo soprano Karina Gauvin is impeccable as Gilade, a royal prince and Berenice’s captain.
The two tenors - Daniel Behle and Emiliano GonzalezToro are perfect. Max Emanuel Cencic as Farnace , gives a dramatic interpretation which is full of cultivated finesse.
I Barocchisti under the direction of Diego Fasolis are accurate in their accents, nuances, colours, contrasts, and with a great sense of theater. One of the best Vivaldi opera recordings. Highly recommended.
I have been overwhelmed by the power and beauty of this new Erato/Virgin recording of Vivaldi's Farnace. Diego Fasolis conducts I Barocchisti with passion, sensitivity and warmth, and the soloists are of the highest quality. However, it is the truly exceptional voice of the countertenor, Max Emanuel Cencic, that turns this recording into an event. The final track on disc three ('Gelido in ogni veni'), for example, should be enough to win over even the hardest hearted listener to the power of Baroque opera. For me, there simply isn't any other art form that delves so successfully into the depths of the human psyche, and Farnace does this supremely well. This is the most successful recording of a Vivaldi opera I have come across so far and it deserves to be much better known.
This is not a pasticcio by Vivaldi - the entire work is authentically Vivaldi's composition, though never performed. According to information, there were two versions of this opera which Vivaldi wrote. This performance is the latter Ferrara (and never performed) version. In this recording, we got two bonus tracks from the first version that were cut from this latter Ferrara version. The vocal line up is extraordinary - all the singers are baroque experts. In the title role, Croatian countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic depicts a tortured King of Pontus who was betrayed by members of his own family following political defeat. As his aggressive mother-in-law Queen of Cappadocia Berenice, Mary Ellen Nesi, an expert mezzo in trouser roles, sung an overbearing middle-aged queen with a chillingly incisive timbre. The relatively minor character of her captain Gilade, a love-sick for Farnace's sister Selinde, is very effectively portrayed by the wonderful soprano Karina Gauvin. Her aria in the final Act is enchanting in an unearthly manner that demonstrates nothing but artistic greatness. As Farnace's schemy sister Selinde, Ann Hallenberg is aptly elegant and steely in turn, which can at the quick-sand like instant become devastatingly enchanting. This great baroque mezzo-soprano has been around for almost two decades without ever receiving her due! The male characters are also wonderfully effective, and so is Tamira, the spouse of Farance, sung by Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Donose. Fasolis and his 'band', needless to say, is all that you would ask for on such a stellar performance.
For lovers of Vivaldi another opera for the collection with a excellent cast. This opera was unknown to me apart from one or two excerpts. I am so pleased I have bought it and recommend this to anyone thinking about buying it