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.