I am becoming quite a fan of Leonardo Vinci, having discovered him via a couple of arias courtesy of Simone Kermes and Cecilia Bartoli, then a disc of lovely cantatas and a live recording of his opera 'La Partenope'. The present recording of his last opera 'Artaserse' is something really special however. Here we have five countertenors (two singing female roles) and a tenor to complete the cast. Generally speaking, I tend to prefer mezzo sopranos to countertenors BUT a really splendid cast has been assembled here and all the soloists are really excellent. Probably my favourite amongst them is Franco Fagioli in the role of the hapless Arbace - his is a glorious, velvety voice and I was delighted to see another reviewer here comparing it to that of Cecilia Bartoli because I had exactly the same thought! Coming a close second is Max Cencic who manages to sound convincingly feminine as his lover Mandane. Another terrific voice is that of Yuriy Mynenko as the general Megabise - a talent to watch. Although Philippe Jaroussky is probably supposed to be the main draw (as his image in on the cover) he is actually one of my least favourite voices on the recording although he does rattle of the coloratura amazingly well. The fifth countertenor, Valer Barna-Sabadus has a lovely, smooth if slightly bland voice. I felt all five voices were different enough to differentiate between on a first listen through. Completing the line up, Daniel Behle's fine tenor makes a welcome contrast of tone and he is searingly dramatic as the semi-villain Artabano.
Diego Fasolis is fast becoming one of favourite conductors of baroque music and he leads Concerto Koln in an exciting, dramatic account of what is a very fine score. There are some truly wonderful arias here. Perhaps there is none of the sheer beauty and dramatic truth so often found in Handel's operas but, wow there is some breathtaking stuff here - frightening coloratura, energetic strings and plenty for the trumpets and drums to do! This is a splendid recording and should be missed by no fan of baroque opera.
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