The 53rd release in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition project, L'incoronazione di Dario is a thrilling recording which couples intelligent and insightful direction from Ottavio Dantone, with eight extraordinary singers, and the vibrant energy of the Accademia Bizantina.
The Swedish tenor Anders Dahlin takes the title role and delivers a magnificent performance. His elegant, youthful tenor and extraordinary tonal precision make him an exciting lead in this recording. Dahiln is fully credible in the more aggressive arias, and has a surprisingly robust lower register, as his A2 in the B-section of "Chi Vantar Può" shows, while his explosive C#5 at the end of "Placami La Mia Bella" confirms his haute-contre credentials. Not to be missed, however, are the fireworks of Darios final aria, "Col Furor Ch'in Petto Io Serbo", which Dahlin executes with alarming ease.
Venetian contralto Sara Mingardo dips well below the staff from the onset in her first aria, "In Petto Ho Un Certo Affanno", and impresses with a couple of rich F#3’s in "Serena Il Tetro Nubilo”. The dark, oaky timbre of her true contralto voice brings a depth to the role of Statira which enhances the character and her music. Mingardo delivers an intense and thrilling rendition of the solo Cantata in act two, "Ardo Tacito Amante", accompanied only by the viola da gamba and harpsichord. While Mingardo has on eof the darker contralto voices on the Baroque music circuit, she can also produce a wonderful, light head tone, as can be heard in both "Se Palpitarti In Sen" and "Sentirò Fra Ramo E Ramo".
Delphine Galou is the second contralto on the recording, taking the role of Argene, Statira’s conniving younger sister. The Parisian singer is more than equipped to handle the fireworks Vivaldi write for Anna Maria Fabbri, who created the role in the first performance. Galou’s lightning coloratura and athletic da capo ornamentation bring added excitement to the performance. With a strong F#3 in "Sarà Tua La Bella Sposa", Galou shows that she is just as convincing in the lower contralto territory. The final aria, "Ferri, Ceppi, Sangui, Morte", is a thunderous tour de force which is sure to become a regular highlight of future contralto recitals.
Taking the role of Niceno is the much sought-after baritone Riaccardo Novaro. His first aria, "Quale All'onte", sees Novaro navigating the baritone range from top to bottom, with a warm and solid suspended F2 in the B-section. The unusual orchestration of his second aria, "Non Lusinghi Il Core Amante", with just bassoon and violone, adds a sinister aspect to his pursuit of Statira.
In the other roles, the incomparable soprano Roberta Mameli takes the role of Alinda, while soprano Sofia Soloviy is Arpago. Mezzo soprano Lucia Cirillo gave a thrilling performance of the venomous "Lasciami In Pace", the music of which has samples of both “Armatae face et anguibus” and “Anderò, volerò, griderò”. The other mezzo soprano on the recording, Giuseppina Bridelli, handled the intense coloratura of the minor role of Flora superbly: she is most assuredly a singer to watch in the future.
Ottavio Dantone’s direction is perfectly conceived to bring out the best in this astounding work, which is full of memorable musical gems. Accademia Bizantina are sharp, energetic, and virtuosic without ever losing sight of the drama and the meaning of the text. The highlight of the orchestral pieces is, for me, the scintillating Sinfonia Per Il Combattimento in act one.
This recording is an excellent addition to the collection of any Baroque music lover.
Les Contraltos is the latest in a series of compilations from Naïve Records, including Les Sopranos and Les Contre-ténors. It is a showcase of the very best of the contralto voice, with five world class contraltos performing a varied repertoire from Vivaldi to Schumann.
With six offerings from the French-Canadian contralto, Les Contraltos is dominated by the theatrical and sensual voice Marie-Nicole Lemieux. A consummate vocal actress, Lemieux is as convincing at portraying the innocence and dreamlike reverie of Thomas’ “Connais Tu Le Pays?” as she is the sultry flirtatiousness of Bizet’s “L'amour Est Un Oiseau Rebelle”.
Lemieux’s comprehensive textual understanding of Schumann’s Der Nussbaum and In Der Fremde, coupled with her superlative talent for storytelling, breathe new life into these beautiful Lieder. But it is in the realm of the French Art-Song that Lemieux excels beyond all else. She weaves an enchanting spell through Hahn’s “L'heure Exquise”, while her intimate “À Chloris” is for me the most beautiful piece on the compilation.
From the very first phrase of Vivaldi’s “Domine Deus Agnus Dei”, Sara Mingardo’s otherworldly voice captivates and scintillates. Her pure, dark tone adds a melancholic, repentant quality to Vivaldi’s sacred music, yet she is able to lighten her voice with surprising ease in the lively “Quae Moerebat Et Dolebat” from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The Venetian contralto’s most intense performance is of Carissimi’s Cantata “Deh, Memoria, E Che Più Chiedi”, in which she draws every element of drama and passion from the work. The cantata is quite low lying, reaching F3 at points, allowing Mingardo to display her luscious lower register.
Nathalie Stutzmann employs a haunting, pure-tone delivery in the “Agnus Dei” from Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Her masterful use of dynamics, and unwavering pitch, bring out the tension in the aria. The phrasing and breath control, combined with her tasteful and understated delivery, make Stutzmann’s “Ave Maria” truly memorable. Mention here must also be made of Aurelie Saraf’s exquisite harp playing.
Naïve’s output of operas by Vivaldi are represented here by Delphine Galou and Sonia Prina. “Ti Sento, Sì, Ti Sento” from Teuzzone sees Galou dancing lightly through Vivaldi’s multiple suspensions. There is also a little passage of music in the minor key which comes straight from Cum Dederit. Her “Lo Sembro Appunto Quell’augelletto” from the 1714 version of Orlando is both upbeat and urgent, driving forward with a wonderful foot-tapping beat.
The fireworks of the CD are intrusted to the capable hands of Italian contralto Sonia Prina, who coruscates through the coloratura of the low-lying “Come L'onda” from Ottone in Villa with unnerving accuracy and ease. Her da capo ornamentation is fierce and full of bravura, electric and exciting. It is a shame there wasn’t more from Prina on the record.
All in all it is a fascinating exploration of the contralto voice, bringing hidden gems to the fore, while showcasing this rare voice type at its best. Les Contraltos should be on the playlist of any contralto enthusiast.
Straight from the theatres, drinking houses and private drawing-rooms of the 1700’s comes this marvellous collection of Baroque songs, published in a two-volume work entitled “Calliope: Volume the First - English Songbooks of the 1700s”, performed by contralto Emma Curtis and early music group The Frolick.
The music is taken from a songbook called Calliope, which was published in 1739, which contained music by the great men of the day, such as Handel, Purcell, Corelli, Arne, as well as many other lesser known composers. There are drinking songs, love song, laments, and works which were particularly relevant to the events of the day, such as “The Lady's Lamentation for the Loss of Senesino” and “England's Lamentation for the Loss of Farinelli”, a reference to the gradual decline in the number of castrati on England’s shores. The project was conceived by the contralto Emma Curtis, who is the vocalist on the album. Calliope was named as Winner, Best Classical Vocal in 2006 by AllMusic.
Emma Curtis, whose voice was described by Marilyn Horne as “the most contralto Contralto I've heard” sings songs from both the male and female perspective. In The Supplication, Curtis spends practically the whole song in the lower register, which is rich, warm and strong, and presents the listener with a few cavernous E3’s. In A favourite arie from Ariadne, Curtis moves with a beautiful legato through the three registers, and again beguiles us with those wonderful E3’s.
The Early Horn is a boisterous, invigorating jig, which Curtis and the Frolick perform as if at a lively party. Curtis moves across the range with great agility, and ends the piece with a two-octave cadenza from F#3 to F#5. The foot-tapping Cupid and Venus is another song in this vein: the musicians of the Frolick clearly enjoying themselves performing this infectious music.
Nymphs don’t do to well out of Calliope, as one is Forshaken, one Dying, and one Melancholy! The Forshaken Nymph sees Curtis at her most tender, weaving a delicate, mournful sound from her powerhouse contralto. The Dying Nymph is beautifully characterised, the words intimately and heart-rendingly delivered, while The Melancholy Nymph is delivered in salon-style story-telling fashion.
The musicians of the Frolick, playing on period instruments, create an authentic sound, vigorous in the livelier pieces, haunting in the more sombre works. Their interaction with each other and with Curtis is slick, intelligent and engaging. This is a fantastic album, both for lovers of the songs of the Baroque period, and enthusiasts of the contralto voice.
Check out the video below, which contains excerpts of the music from Calliope interspersed with interviews about the album, and also Emma Curtis' pages at the Contralto Corner. Click here to purchase the Album from Amazon.
Naïve Records have struck gold with this stunning collection of early music songs. With music from Monteverdi, Handel, Scarlatti and others, this CD has the perfect combination of sublime, tender phrases with fast, exhilarating coloratura. Performing the works are the renowned early music specialists Sonia Prina (contralto) and Roberta Invernizzi (soprano). Both women are known for their intelligent and well researched performances, and for their formidable vocal athleticism. Accompanying them are the Ensemble Claudiana, lead by Luca Pianca, who will be accompanying Sonia Prina at her Wigmore Hall concert on 30th Dec.
The CD is dominated by the giant figure of Monteverdi. The opening duet, "Interrotte Speranze" is from the Seventh Book of Madrigals published in 1619. The opening unison phrase by Invernizzi and Prina, is followed by a sinuous, snake-like intertwining of voices, as the soprano and the contralto dance around each other in close harmony. The decision to let Prina’s penultimate “mio” hang in the air, pausing before Invernizzi’s entrance on the final phrase, adds powerfully to the drama of the piece.
Another piece from the Seventh Book of Madrigals is “Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben” and “vorrei bacarti”. “Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben” is split into four parts. The end of the first section sees Prina’s contralto scored above Invernizzi’s soprano, adding an interesting texture. In the third section, Invernizzi floats a gorgeous pianissimo Eb5 on the phrase “in me più che’l”, while the final section saw Prina descend to rock solid G3 on the word “morte”.
The highlight of the CD is the magnificent “Pur ti Miro”, the closing duet from Monteverdi’s operaL’incoronazione di Poppea. In the A section, Prina and Invernizzi are the epitome of sensual tenderness, their voices dancing playfully and skilfully through Monteverdi’s tender music. Check out the immaculate semitone dissonance on the phrase “più non peno/più non moro”.
"Mentre vaga Angioletta" comes from Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals. After an extended solo entrance by Prina, she and Invernizzi alternate between exquisitely precise coloratura, and haunting chromatic lines reminiscent of Purcell. The sublime moment of the piece comes on the phrase “mormorando in basso, e mobil suono” as Prina and Invernizzi sing in close harmony, crossing parts every second note. The execution of the broken coloratura on the phrase “hor la raffrena” is again testament to the skill of the two performers.
The other “big gun” on the CD is Handel, represented with two duets. “Tanti strali”, sees Prina exercise her wonderful lower register, with a couple of phrases in the third section lying almost exclusively below the stave. The middle section of the duet is indicative of Handel’s melodic and harmonic genius, with several spine-tingling suspensions, and a novel resolution on the words “arsa e consunta”. The interplay between Prina and Invernizzi is perfectly measured, with Invernizzi producing several beautiful highpianissimi.
The CD also features one aria each by Marcello, Lotti, and Durnate, and a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti. Luca Pianca and the Ensemble Claudiana are exemplary throughout the recording. Pianca’s well researched and intuitive direction brings out the best in all the performers, and brings to the fore aspects of the two major composers which would otherwise have been lost. His use of dynamics to emphasise certain words and structural parts of the compositional texture is genius, and works particularly well given the “stripped down” quality of the accompaniment. Amore e morte dell’amore is a "must have" this summer.