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.
The release of Catone in Utica marks the midway point in Naïve’s 25 year project: the Vivaldi Edition series. Ann Hallenberg, Sonia Prina, and other stars of the Baroque music world have been assembled under the baton of Alan Curtis, accompanied by Il Complesso Barocco.
Following on from the successes of La fida ninfa, Bajazet and Adelaide, Vivaldi produced this stunning opera as the finale to his time at the Teatro dell’Accademia Filarmonica. He assembled a diverse cast including a local tenor, Cesare Grandi, as Catone, the soprano castrato Giacomo Zaghini as Cesare, and Anna Girò, one of his most faithful collaborators, as Marzia. The result was a stunning opera of which Prince Charles Albert wrote that “Everything gave undiminished delight.” Only acts two and three ofCatone in Utica survive in the archives of the Biblioteca Nationale in Turin. For this recording, Alan Curtus and Alessandro Ciccolini have painstakingly reconstructed act one.
The star of the CD must surely be Swedish mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg. Her portrayal of the fiendish role of Emilia is outstanding, both vocally and with respect to characterisation. Hallenberg’s rendition of "O nel sen di qualche stella" is a masterclass in the art of singing. Hallenberg’s rich mezzo blossoms at the top of her range, with never a hint of shrillness, while the low register is full and warm. Listen out for the stunning multiple Bb3’s (Baroque Pitch) in the A section. Her thirst for vengeance in the B section is chilling, and the virtuosity of the extended staccato ornamentation on the word “tiranno” is without parallel.
"Come invano il mare irato" sees Hallenberg sail through over two octaves of Vivaldi’s glorious music, from G3 to B5. The unbelievable virtuosity of the endless runs in the da capo, and the magnificent A Capella C6 in the cadenza, are just two of the many highlights of the aria. Hallenberg utterly dominates the music, showing no fear while being totally immersed in the music. It is clear from this recording that she is one of the finest singers on the world stage today.
Roberta Mameli’s Cesare is something of a revelation. In “Vaga sei nè sdegni tuoi” Mameli relishes the relentless pace of Vivaldi’s tempestuous aria. Her repeated notes in the da capo are perfectly executed: a truly unbelievable performance. In "Se in campo armato", Cesare throws down the gauntlet to Catone in this coloratura-laden aria. Mameli interpolates some exciting staccato ornamentation in da capo.
Another side of Cesare’s character is seen in "Apri le luci e mira." Mameli’s pure lyric soprano weaves a hunting and hypnotic spell in this devastating expression of Cesare’s love. The B section contains some voluptuous vocal writing by Vivaldi, particularly on the extended phrases on the word “fiamma.” "Se mai senti spirarti sul volto lieve" is a much lighter expression of love, and one which, particularly in the A section, presages Mozart. Mameli’s phrasing in this aria is utterly sublime.
The rest of the assembled cast produced some very strong singing. Topi Lehtipuu’s Catone is both energetic and engaging, while Sonia Prina’s Marzia is a delight: full of warmth in the chest register, and desplaying her trademark lightning coloratura in "Se parto, se resto". Romina Basso’s Fulvio was full of fury in "L'ira mia, bella sdegnata", bringing tangible vitriol to the aria, while Emőke Baráth’s Arbace was highly emotional and full of anguish. The accompaniment from Il Complesso Barocco was outstanding, with some surprisingly fierce direction from Alan Curtis.