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: Naïve Records
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.
As part of their ambitious project, the Vivaldi Edition, Naïve have released a second compilation of operatic arias, showcasing the work of the “Red Priest”.
All of the arias are taken from the “Turin treasure,” the collection of 22 operas and around 50 arias preserved in the archives of the National Library of Turin. The arias incorporated into this compilation move throughout the whole spectrum of emotional expression, from fierce tempests to the tenderest expressions of love. The credits list runs like a “who’s Who” of Baroque music, with performers such as Philippe Jaroussky, Nathalie Stutzmann, Sandrine Piau and Jean-Christophe Spinosi.
The collection begins with the fierce “Se lento ancora il fulmine” from Argippo, which was re-discovered relatively recently by Czech harpsichordist and conductor Ondrej Macek in Regensburg. The Italian mezzo-contralto Romina Basso gives an utterly astonishing performance, with her warm voice darkening wildly to infuse the aria with terrible rage.
Sandrine Piau is equally formidable in “Alma oppressa da sorte crudele” from La fida ninfa. The music is very similar to the fiendish “Dominus a Dextris Tuis”, a Tenor aria from Dixit Dominus, RV 807, and gives the singer very little time to breathe. This poses no problems for Piau, whose explosive coloratura cuts through the music like a knife. Particularly stunning is her ornamentation in the da capo, with a string of staccato leaps to C6 (A=415). Jean-Christophe Spinosi’s direction is vigorous, and his decision to highlight the bass pedal with a strong crescendo is highly dramatic.
More fireworks from Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva as she sings “Gelosia” from Ottone in villa. Lezhneva’s rich, plumy soprano moves effortlessly thought the relentless coloratura of the A-section, while tenderly caressing Vivaldi’s beautiful and tragic phrases in the B-section. The 1714 edition ofOrlando furioso has a version of “Nel profondo cieco mondo” for baritone, which is admirably performed by Riccardo Novaro. The music is the most “Handelian” I have heard from Vivaldi. “Alme perfide isegnatemi” from Atenaide provides some punishing writing for the tenor voice, which Stefano Ferrari navigates with immense skill. Mention must also be made of the beautiful pizzicato string playing from Modo Antiquo under the direction of Federico Maria Sardelli in “Cor moi che prigion sei”.
The most ethereal aria on the album is the delicious “Sol da te” from Orlando Furioso. Philippe Jaroussky and Jean-Christophe Spinosi join forces to produce a truly mesmerising performance. Jaroussky is on top form here, producing that clear, tense yet floating tone for which he is famous. His “duet” with the flute is both measured and intense.
Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu shines in the lament “Deh ti piega” from La Fida Ninfa. He spins line after line of sensuous legato, moving effortlessly through the registers, producing a whole gamut of rich vocal coloration. The most interesting combination of tone comes in the duet “Che amaro tormento” fromTeuzzone. Here, contralto Delphine Galou and sopranist Paolo Lopez sing their love duet, and it is fascinating hear the high and bright timbre of Lopez interact with Galou’s dark contralto.
This second volume is a fantastic showcase for almost 25 years’ worth of research, recording and rediscovery by Naïve records of Vivaldi’s work. With so many gems here, this is a must-have for any Baroque collector, and a wonderful introduction for anyone looking to dive into the Baroque and Vivaldi for the first time.