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.
When I first heard Julia Lezhneva, I had no idea what to expect. It was in a concert performance of Vivaldi’s Ottone in Villa. What I heard blew me away. Lezhneva, at the age of only 20, was able to hold her own amidst such seasoned performers as Roberta Invernizzi and Sonia Prina. She had excellent control of her instrument, fluid coloratura, and a mature confidence. Perhaps that should not surprise, as Lezhneva has been competing in vocal competitions since the age of twelve, and made her professional debut at the age of 16, as the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem. Since then, she has successfully interpreted music from many different periods. This latest project, her first solo recording, is of Opera arias by Rossini.
Announcing her presence with bang, the first aria, “Tanti affetti” from La Donna del Lago, is one of the two highlights of the album. Here we see Lezhneva’s excellent coloratura skills, with extended ornaments, stunning breath control, and two phenomenal two octave dives from Bb5 to Bb3. The register changes are managed with style, smooth in the runs, thundering in the dives, and are performed without resorting to screaming/barking at either end of the range. The fluidity of her coloratura throughout the range is also undeniable in “Bel raggio lunsinghieri” from Semiramide. Here, Lezhneva give us some real, solid soprano notes, well above the stave. Her trill is also on display, and it is very good – probably as a result of her Baroque work. The coloratura tour de force "Della fortuna istabile...Nacqui all'affanno" from La Cenerentola is masterfully performed, with precision in the faster sections, and a richness in the lower voice carried down to the low G3’s (this aria was originally performed by contralto Geltrude Righetti).
We hear a darker, more reflective Lezhneva in "Assisa a' pie d'un salice" from Otello. The smoky-darkness of her voice offsets beautifully the tender sounds of the harp. Without the fireworks of the previous arias, it is Lezhneva’s sensitive phrasing and dynamics which have the power to draw on the emotions. This can again be heard in "Ils 'éloignent enfin" from Guillaume Tell, where the urgent power of the recitative flows into the beautiful melancholy of the aria, and where the long, lilting phrases and gentle touches on the ornamentation convey the sadness of an aching heart. Compared to the previous two arias, "L'ora fatal s'apressa" from L'assedio Di Corinto, the second highlight of the album, is on another level. So complete is the characterisation, and so subtle are the inflections of the voice, that the last few seconds of silence on the recording still ring with the final phrase, “implorar la tua pietà”.
A nice touch is the addition of the Sinfonia from La Cenerentola towards the end of the disk. The musicians of Sinfonia Varsovia play with great animation, under the expert hand of Marc Minkowski. The interplay between Sinfonia Varsovia, Minkowski and Lezhneva is truly organic, showing just how good Minkowski is. His understanding of the contrasting Rossini pieces offered in this collection is both erudite and well communicated, giving a sense of authenticity to the recording. This is a CD definitely worth having, and Julia Lezhneva is a Soprano to watch.
The recording was produced for the Naïve record label: click here to see the official webpage. Also, check out this promo video below.