Contralto, Sonia Prina returned to the Wigmore Hall after her phenomenal debut to perform arias composed by G. F. Handel for the star castrato Senesino. Handel wrote many heroic roles for Senesino, a man noted for his fiery temperament, each playing to the castrato’s wonderfully rich lower register and to his ability to sing “allegros with great fire, and marked rapid divisions, from the chest, in an articulate and pleasing manner”. Sonia Prina’s amazing technique, and her willingness to explore the lower register of the contralto voice, made her performance a unanimous success: she is truly the Heir to Senesino!
Prina chose three intense yet emotionally diverse slow arias in the program. In the first, “Ombra cara” from Radamisto, Prina wove a tale of loss and revenge, her dark voice full of despair and wretched vengeance. In “Pompe vane… Dove sei” from Rodelinda, Prina’s astounding breath control and rich tone imbued the aria with a deep sense of longing.
The hypnotic orchestration of “Cara sposa” from Rinaldo, was chillingly delivered by Luca Pianca's Ensemble Claudiana, solidly underpinning Prina’s emotionally devastating delivery. The contrast between the tempi of the A and B sections worked very well, demonstrating the conflicting emotions of the aria.
Of the five bravura arias which made up the majority of the program, and the whole of the encores, I must make special mention of the first, “Furibondo spira il vento” from Partenope. Prina’s technique and delivery of the rapid coloratura passages electrified the audience. It was the best performance of this aria I have heard.
“Empio, dirò, tu sei” from Giulio Cesare, which was performed both in the first half of the recital, and as the final encore, was truly furious. Prina strutted about the stage, dominating the aria from beginning to end. Her G3 at the end of the B section, and the F3 at the end of the da capo, were utterly brilliant.
Bertarido’s “Vivi Tiranno” from Rodelinda saw Prina in triumphant form, revelling in Handel’s superb composition, while “Venti Turbini” from Rinaldo saw her deliver the longs lines of semiquavers with frightening assurance. “Se fiera belva ha cinto” from Rodelinda was a much jollier affair, with Prina and Ensemble Claudiana having a great deal of fun in its performance.
The highlight of the concert was the tremendous performance of the two pieces from Orlando: “Cielo! se tu il consenti” and “Ah Stigie larve”. In the first aria, Prina took the triplet phrases at blistering speed, while her characterisation in the second, the Mad scene from Orlando, was so authentic and riveting that it elicited a roar of approval from the audience.
The orchestral offerings from Ensemble Claudiana came mainly from Theodora: the Overture, the Larghetto and the Courante. In a change from the program, we were treated to Handel’s Passacaglia Op. 5, Mvt. 4. Each was performed with skill and intelligence, the small ensemble able to tease new meaning out of the familiar pieces. From start to finish the Ensemble, with Luca Pianca at the helm, performed magnificently, their intelligent craftsmanship and nuanced performance both supporting and complementing Prina's Olympian performance.
© James Edward Hughes 2014
From the Nikolaisaal in the heart of Potsdam, Germany, we were treated to a fantastic concert with two giants of the Baroque music world: coloratura soprano Simone Kermes and contralto Sonia Prina.
The music focused on Handel and some of his rival composers: Porpora, Vivaldi, Pergolesi, and a fiery aria from Gluck. With a combined range of over three octaves (E6 from Kermes, and D3 from Prina) the evening was a virtuosic extravaganza: a truly memorable occasion.
We were presented with a delightful pair of slow, pensive arias. Sonia Prina’s hypnotic delivery of Vivaldi’s magnificent “Là, sull'eterna sponda” was the first aria of the evening. The superb phrasing and tender delivery captivated the Potsdam audience, while her cavernous G3 in the da capo rang out gloriously throughout the hall. Simone Kermes tantalised us with the beautiful “Alto Giove” by Porpora. She began with a tender messa di voce on the first vowel, which she swelled and diminished with admirable control, and her high pianissimo in the da capo was haunting.
Each of the soloists had three bravura arias. Sonia Prina’s first offering was “Quel vasto quel fiero” from Porpora’s Polifemo, where her speed and agility were highly impressive. Prina utterly dominated the fierce “Se fedele mi brama” from Gluck’s Ezio. She revelled in the low tessitura of the piece, the passages below the stave full of strength and power. Finally, Prina blew the audience away with her electric coloratura and commanding stage presence in Handel’s “Venti turbini”. Simone Kermes launched into Porpora’s “Vedrà turbato il mare” with complete abandon, leaping into the stratosphere with amazing security. Kermes powered through the ferocious “Empi se mai disciolgo” seemingly without stopping for breath, while she playfully vaulted above the stave in “Son qual nave in ria procella”.
The evening was dominated by a series of duets between the soprano and contralto. We were presented with two offerings from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. In “Stabat Mater dolorosa” Kermes and Prina sauntered through the sinuous suspensions with spine-tingling precision, their two distinct voices intertwining magically. “Fac, ut ardet cor meum” is much faster, much more vigorous. The combination of two of the Baroque music world’s best coloratura specialists made for an exciting rendition. Perhaps my favourite duet of the evening was Handel’s “Io t’abbraccio” from Rodelina. Prina and Kermes were completely in character, full of heartache and suffering: a truly stunning rendition of this devastating duet.
But is wasn’t all heartache and sorrow. By the time we came to the encores, we were into the territory of the Baroque love duet. The first encore was the ebullient “Scherzano sul tuo volto” from Handel’sRinaldo. Kermes and Prina sang like a pair of young lovers, and ended the piece with a kiss! The second duet, “Caro! Bella!” from Giulio Cesare, saw Prina dive down to a marvellous D3 at the beginning of the da capo, the lowest note I have heard from her so far. Throughout the concert, the accompaniment by La Magnifica Comunità, under the direction of Enrico Casazza, was, as always, excellent.
Contralto Sonia Prina joined forces with the incomparable Il Pomo d’Oro for a memorable evening, combining the beauty and depth of Vivaldi with some breathtaking performances. It was a triumph for Prina, earning a rapturous applause from a packed Wigmore Hall.
The first of the three Vivaldi cantatas we were treated to was “Perfidissimo cor!” which was accompanied only by Harpsichord, Lute and Cello. This intimate grouping allowed Prina to communicate, with a potent intensity, the emotional charge of the text, weaving an enchantment which remained throughout the evening. Prina’s famous coloratura came early in the recital, as she navigated effortlessly through the demisemiquaver runs occurring repeatedly on the word “sdegno” in the first of the two arias, which she ended with a formidably solid G3. The second aria contained many uses of elements of the harmonic minor scale, which requires pin-point accuracy of pitch to sound effective: a requirement that Prina was more than happy to deliver.
The first aria of the second Vivaldi Cantata, “Cessate, omai cessate”, opened with an interesting mix of pizzicato and bowed strings: the score stipulating that only the cello and one violin be bowed. At moments of emphasis, all the strings are designated arco, which gave an aggressive, whip-like effect to the phrase “Già barbare e spietate”. Prina’s beautiful ornament at the end of the B section lead straight into the da capo, where she added a series of tasteful mordents, turns and trills, finishing with an ornament that deliciously portrayed Prina’s dark and velvety lower register. The second aria set the Wigmore Hall on fire, as Prina performed at impossibly high speed, throwing out F5’s like fireworks, while adding even faster ornamentation in the da capo. The roar that came from the audience proclaimed the first half a resounding success.
In the second half, Prina presented us with two arias from Vivaldi’s operas. The first, “Cosi potessi anch’io” from Orlando furioso, saw Prina don the mantle of the Sorceress Alcina, alternating between longing for her lover, and lamenting her lot at the hands of the god of love. Prina carried a beautiful legato line, with a warm and passionate tone throughout. The second aria, “Se in ogni guardo” fromOrlando finto pazzo, saw Prina rip through the music like lightning. Her precision in the difficult coloratura passages was astounding. The final piece in the second half was the cantata “Amor, hai vinto”. It is known as the Queen of Vivaldi’s cantatas, and is full of explosive and passionate music. The first aria starts with a powerful continuo line, and sinuous, interweaving upper stings, in pairs of resolving dissonances. Prina dealt expertly with the lines of triplet semiquavers, while declaiming emphatically the agitated and fiery text. The coloratura in the second aria was a pure delight to listen to in the hands of so athletic an artist. Prina choice of repertoire was well balanced, and an excellent showcase for her exhilarating contralto voice.
The first of the Instrumental pieces, Giuseppe Brescianello’s Sinfonia in F, Op. 1, No. 5, was a joyous way to introduce Il Pomo d’Oro to the audience. The opening movement alternated between lively movement, and a series of slower, tender motifs played only by the higher strings. The other two pieces were Violin concertos by Vivaldi. The middle section of the first concerto, the C major RV 181, had a tender and mournful line for the violin which Riccardo Minasi, director of Il Pomo d’Oro, performed with intuitive and sensitive musicianship. The final concerto, the E minor RV 277 “Il Favorito”, had an astounding part for Riccardo Minasi, who truly took on the mantel of Vivaldi with virtuosity and skill. I must also mention the extraordinary Ludovico Minasi on cello, and Giulio D’Alessio on Viola, who managed to tease the most beautiful “alto” sounds right from the soul of the instrument.
For the encore, Prina gave us two marvellous arias. The first was “Vedrò con mio diletto” from IlGiustino. Prina introduced the aria by telling us that it was one of her favourites, which she used to sing when she was pregnant. In her hands, the aria reprised the enchantment of the first cantata. Her dynamic decisions were perfectly considered, and her choice of ornamentation enhanced the already beautiful melodic line. It was wonderful to hear Prina use the lower registers in the da capo, rather than moving higher in the voice as is usually the case when this aria is performed by other singers. The second encore was "Nel profondo" from Orlando Furioso. She introduced the aria as being both funny and fast: and indeed it was. She interacted magnificently with both the orchestra and the audience: the wonderful “yes” gasped by Riccardo Minasi as Prina reached the low G3 on the word “mondo” received a hearty laugh from the audience. In the da capo, Prina launched herself up to a spectacular G5, and followed it immediately by plummeting down two octaves to a G3.
It was a fantastic concert, one of the best I have been to. I left the concert exhilarated by the music, and determined to see this superb contralto again very soon. I was also very pleased to have had the chance to hear Il Pomo d’Oro, as they are truly one of the best period orchestras on the circuit today.
The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées played host to a wonderful concert performance of Handel’s Rodelinda, with a stellar cast which included soprano Karina Gauvin, and the contraltos Sonia Prina and Delphine Galou. Alan Curtis was at the helm, directing the orchestra, Il Complesso Barocco.
From the moment Karina Gauvin sang her first note, she stamped her authority on the character of Rodelinda. Her potent attack in the aria “L’empio rigor” was ferocious indeed, yet she was capable of great tenderness also, as her light touch and exquisite phrasing in “Ombra piante” confirmed. Her technical skill and confident coloratura was evident in the demanding “Morrai, sì”, while Gauvin raged with the force of a Medea in the recitative where Rodelinda exhorts Grimoaldo to kill her son. In the following aria, “Spietati, lo vi giurai” Gauvin was on fire. The purity and solidity of tone in the high tessitura of “Ritorna, o caro” was beautiful to behold, while her “Se’l mio duol”, with its nods to “Se pietà” from Giulio Cesare, was utterly heartrending. Gauvin’s “Mio cara bene”, was truly joyous as she soared above the stave. Gauvin was indeed a memorable and powerful Rodelinda.
In a role which is so full of powerful arias, it was surprising to note that Sonia Prina’s Bertarido produced some of the tenderest performances I have ever heard from her. In the poignant “Dove sei”, Prina’s middle register was so light and pure it was almost as if we were listening to a lyric mezzo, instead of a contralto famed for revelling in her chest register, while “Con rauco mormorio” was devastatingly affecting. Prina returned to her fiery form with “Confusa sì miri” thundering through her lines with tremendous security in the lower register, while she effortlessly navigated the awkward lines of “Scacciata dal suo nido” which sit right across the contralto lower passagio. Prina’s vocal fireworks in “Se fiera belva ha cinto” threatened to upstage her astounding “Vivi Tiranno”, both of which saw her dive ferociously into the true contralto depths.
The duet “Io t’abbraccio” was truly magical, as Prina and Gauvin’s voices wove together to form a richly textured, intimate musical pattern: where Gauvin glided to the top of the stave, Prina countered by flowing to the bottom, achieving a synthesis of tone in the overlapping areas.
The velvety tones of mezzo Romina Basso and contralto Delphine Galou were heard in the roles of Eduige and Unulfo respectively. Basso’s rich middle register added a sultry sensuality to the traitorous Eduige. She excelled in the feisty “Lo farò dirò spietato”, her warm tone present throughout the range. “De’ miei scherni” saw Basso unleash her trademark speed, and her wonderful ornamentation. She also excels in dynamic variations, which she uses to great effect on long, unaccompanied notes in her cadenze. Her last aria was the vivacious “Quanto più fiera”, in which she seemed to enjoy herself a lot. Galou’s speed and lightness of touch, coupled with her dark timbre, make her voice perfect for the so-called “trouser” roles. She sped through her first aria, “Sono i culpi”, at breakneck speed, navigating confidently the low-lying coloratura. In “''Fra tempeste funeste” Galou sang one of the most beautiful lines in the opera, the phrase “foreira la calma già spunta una stella”, which was enriched by her exquisite mezza di voce on each of the tied notes.
Topi Lehtipuu’s Grimoaldo was a little off kilter after a mishap in the first aria, but he recovered to produce a lovely “Prigioniera hò l’alma”. While some of the arias seemed a little low for his beautiful, high and light lyric Tenor (which is superb for Vivaldi, in which he has proven success), his “Trà sospetti” was fabulous, with Lehtipuu dominating the aria. Matthew Brook gloried in his role as the scheming villain Garibaldo. “Di Cupido” was both menacing and entertaining, with Brook taking the high tessitura and difficult series of arpeggios in his stride. Particularly good was the extended phrase on the word “alletta”. For me, though, one of the highlights of the night was Brook’s maniacal “Tirannia”, sung with true evil triumph, and one of the best I have heard. Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco did a great job, and thanks for the encore of the final ensemble, with Matthew Brook reduced to an “ornamental” role as his character was already dead by this point. It was a fantastic evening, and a lovely end to my Parisian holiday.
The third and final instalment of my Versailles concert extravaganza came in the form of the marvellous Giulio Cesare (Jules César). Cesare is probably Handel's best known opera. He had, at his disposal, an awesome array of singers, including the star castrato Senesino, sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Margherita Durastanti, contralto Anastasia Robinson (who had once been a soprano before an illness caused her voice to drop significantly), and the castrato Gaetano Berenstadt, who made a habit of playing villains. The calibre of the performers was mirrored in the excellence of the composition, with some of the most demanding writing, both technically and emotionally, of all Handel's operas.
The title role at Versailles was taken by the formidable contralto Sonia Prina. Her potent delivery of the rage aria "Empio, dirò, tu sei" at the beginning of the opera showed us exactly what to expect from her performance that evening: excellence! Taken at breakneck speed, Prina's control was astounding: the runs were note perfect, and the lower passaggio was negotiated with security. If any proof of her contralto credentials were required, her G3 at the end of the B section, and her cavernous F3 at the end of the aria were proofs enough. "Va tacito e nascosto" had Prina in her element: her dark tone adding the gravitas to the aria it requires. The military tenor of the aria was a perfect vehicle for Prina's strong dynamic style. All credit to the horn player, Ermes Pecchinini, for getting through the hellish horn part.
For me, the most spectacular aria of the whole performance was “Al lampo dell’armi,” which Prina sang at an unbelievable speed, and performed the coloratura with pin-point precision. As with most of her arias, Prina made some wonderful dives deep into the chest register, to G3 or below. It is wonderful to hear ornamentation which celebrates the strengths of the contralto voice. "Quel torrente" was pure joy to listen to, with Prina at her most imperial. The lines were faultless, and her presence on stage during the aria was all Caesar! One extra point to mention was the beautiful duet with Cleopatra (Maria Grazia Schiavo), "Caro, più amabile beltà." When Schiavo ornamented high into the head register, Prina responded with beautiful descending phases into the lower contralto zone. A fantastic performance, and one which will stay in my mind as the performance to live up to. I can't wait to see her at the Wigmore Hall in November.
Maria Grazia Schiavo's Cleopatra was a joy to listen to: finally we have someone who combines the youthful flirtations of Cleopatra the woman, with the machinations and strategic opportunism of the Cleopatra the stateswoman. Her characterisation was alive, vibrant and powerful, and the interplay with Prina was great to watch: the two of them very much ‘in character’ throughout the performance. The interpolated high note at the end of her first aria, “Priva son d’ogni conforto,” was stunning, and gave us an indication of what was to come. Her tone was a sparkly, yet full-bodied and luscious soprano, which was impressive in both the slower and the faster arias allocated to the Egyptian Queen.
Schiavo's “V’adoro pupille” was a masterclass in seduction from the moment she sauntered, tantalisingly to her stand. Her tender phrasing, generous sound, and refined movements were utterly captivating. Noelia Reverte's romantic playing on her beautiful, dark red viola da gamba added to the already bewitching atmosphere of the piece. By contrast, the dark “Se pietà di me non senti” was handled with such pathos that many of the audience who spoke to me after the concert mentioned how sublimely it had been performed. The opening lines of "Piangerò la sorte mia" were indefinably beautiful, and were contrasted by the vigorous singing and playing in the B section. In her final aria, “Da tempeste il legno infranto,” Schiavo erupted into joyous coloratura and ebullient ornamentation. She gave it her all, and won a huge round of applause in the process.
Originally written for the soprano Margherita Durastanti, the role of Sesto in this production was taken by sopranist Paolo Lopez. What a voice! Lopez has a fantastic beauty of tone at the upper extremity of the range, which has a more "soprano" sound than that of most counter-tenors I have heard. Lopez's "Cara speme" was utterly beautiful, while "Svegliatevi nel core" was delightful, with real rage coming through. His confidence above the stave was matched with a well integrated modal transition. "L'angue offeso mai riposa" was again performed with intensity and courage, with many exposed G5's negotiated expertly, and Lopez took the nasty 1.5 octave leap to G5 in his stride. I thought, not being very well acquainted with the sopranist fach, that there would be difficulties maintaining continuity of tone across the voice into the "soprano" register, while transitions into the modal voice would cause a destabilisation of the middle register. I was wrong. Lopez managed the transitions from modal to falsetto with immense skill, and retained both beauty and strength in the middle to lower falsetto registers. Lopez thus sounded more akin to a mezzo-soprano, with its three integrated registers, than a falsettist with a distinct modal transition. An exciting performance, which saw Lopez dominate his arias.
The role of Cornelia was performed by mezzo-soprano Anna Rita Gemmabella, whose mournful, dark voice complemented the sorrowful arias Handel composed for this role. The heart-breaking aria "Priva son d'ogni conforto" was a delight to listen to, with Gemmabella making full use of the emotional libretto to express the suffering of her character. Her singing during the recitatives and ariosos was very much full of pathos and sincere grief, and her performance in the third act was very powerful. The duet between her and Lopez, "Son nata a lagrimar/Son nato a sospirar" was enchanting. Their two voices worked marvellously together; the high male and low female contrasting and complementing each other. At one point, Gemmabella was singing an octave below Lopez! The unaccompanied parts were the most beautiful, where we could hear the two timbres of the singers as they wove together.
Sergio Foresti gave a very solid performance as Achilla. His first aria, "Tu sei il cor di questo core" was very confidently executed, with him negotiating the F4's very well, keeping the tone all the way down to the lower chest register: no bottoming out here! The fast coloratura of "Dal fulgor di questa spada" was very good, each note distinct, and no fudging or slurring. Benedetta Mazzucato's Nireno was well conceived, using the recitatives to bring out Nireno’s character. Giuseppe Esposito's large-voiced Curio was certainly present! His interactions with Prina during their recitatives were considered and relevant. It was a shame both he and Mazzucato didn't have more to do to display their vocal skills. I would like to hear more of them in the future. I would also like to add that Ottavio Dantone's direction of the orchestra, Accademia Bizantina, was superb, as was their performance. Simply put - a blistering performance of Cesare! I only hope the performance was recorded. How wonderful it would be if the same cast could be involved in a staged performance of Cesere!
Vivaldi's first Opera, Ottone in Villa, was premiered on 17th May 1713, in Vicenza, Italy. An adaptation of a libretto for an earlier opera, Messalina, Ottone in Villa transforms Emperor Claudius into Emperor Otho (Ottone) and Messalina into Cleonilla, a non-historical character.
Ottone, hopelessly in love with Cleonilla, fails to notice that she is acting like a hussy, courting not one, but two other men, Caio and Ostilio, even though his faithful servant Decio tries desperately to warn him on more than one occasion. Caio, Cleonilla's primary plaything, is unceremoniously dumped for Ostilio, who is more beautiful that Caio. The reason that Ostilio is more 'beautiful' is that Ostilio is, in reality, a woman! More than that, Ostilio is none other than Tullia, the woman Caio dumped in order to cuckold Ottone.
Tullia planed to kill or discredit Cleonilla, and to extract a confession of guilt and forgiveness from Caio, but Caio is unrepentant, and Tullia spends much time vascillating between her need for vengence and her love for Caio. In a wonderful scene, where she hides, listening to Caio's lament, she mocks him from afar, in a duet which is interestingly orchestrated - main orchestra plus two violins and two recorders, all doing different things, while Caio is left to wonder who this strange disembodied voice is that mocks him, and wonders if he is loosing his grip on sanity.
In a final scene, where Ottone and Decio walk in to find Cleonilla in an amourous embrace with Ostilio/Tullia, and Caio in a murderous rage at his 'rival', Ostilio reveals her true identity as Tullia, clears Cleonilla of all culpability, and claims that Caio is the real villain. Cleonilla, thinking quickly on her feet, claims to Ottone that she only embraced Ostilio/Tullia because she was aware of her true identity, and was trying to help reunite Tullia and Caio.
Ottone, still madly and foolishly in love, believes her, and asks her forgiveness for thinking badly of her. He also orders Caio to marry Tullia, which of satisfies Tullia no end. Caio, seeing he writing on the wall, asks forgiveness of Tullia, which she readily gives. And Cleonilla, in an aside otthe audience, promises to be a better person in future.
Confused? Well, this intrigue-laden plot throws up some real musical gems.
The performance at the Barbican Centre in London was as sparce visually as the orchestration. But this complemented, rather than detracted from, the music. The cast was:
Ottone: Sonia Prina (Contralto)
Caio: Juila Lezhneva (Soprano)
Cleonilla: Veronica Cangemi (Soprano)
Ostilio/Tullia: Roberta Invernizzi (Soprano)
Decio: Topi Lehtipuu (Tenor)
It was performed in concert style, with two singers, Invernizzi and Lezhneva, to the left of the conductor, and the rest to his right. The orchestra was Il Giardino Armonico, and the conductor Giovanni Antonini, both superb, especially first violinist Stefano Barneschi, as he played the solo virtuoso violin part Vivaldi had written for himself.
First up, let's take a look at Sonia Prina's interpretation of Ottone. Originally written for Contralto Diana Vico, the part of Ottone hangs low in tessitura, and is full of wonderful coloratura. Prina takes to the role with ease, and fires of the rapid passages with skill and precision. Her rich voice gives her the clout to perform this 'trouser' role with authenticity, yet without sacrificing ease of movement.
Her Ottone is painfully credulous, as the characterisation demands, yet the sense of power and authority never leave her. She raised a few laughs too, especially in her confusion about Ostilio/Tullia. An excellent performance, though I for one wished she had more to do.
Next, Veronica Cangemi as Cleonilla. I was slightly disappointed as her voice was much smaller than I had expected. She was in fact louder and more expressive during the Recitative parts than in the arias where, in a couple of places, I had difficulty hearing her. Given I was only eight rows away from the stage, I would expect a little more volume.
Her characterisation was solid, if uninspired, and perhaps slightly less self assured and carefree than I would have expected for a woman juggling three suitors. Her technical performance was spot on, however, and her comedic interactions with the other performers in Act 3 were more in character.
Juila Lezhneva stole the night for me. I was amazed by the power, skill and depth of character she gave to the role of Caio. It was originally written for a Soprano Castrato, and this was reflected in the difficulty of some of the fast passages, as well as in the longer phrases.
Born in 1989, Lezhneva displayed supprising maturity in the role. The Act 1 aria Gelosia (Jealousy) really showed her skill, and she captivated the audience from the onset. Her coloratura was flawless, and her characterisation perfect. I am looking forward to hearing more from this up-and-coming young Russian.
Playing two characters of different genders in the same performance is not always easy, but Roberta Invernizzi gave real depth to both personalities, as well as managing to merge the vengeful traits of Tullia with the sweetness of Ostilio as the drama progressed. Her comic movements and facial expressions added to the portrayal, especially when showing her disdain for Caio while Lezhneva performed her arias.
The highlight for me from Invernizzi was her gentle, caustic mocking of Caio during the duet 'L'ombre l'aure, e ancora il rio', where Invernizzi removed to the back of the stage while Lezhneva lamented her character's sorrow.
Click here for a sneeky video taken by one of the audience members on the night. It is of Invernizzi singing the aria 'Misero spirto mio'.
The other surprise of the evening was the Tenor Topi Lehtipuu. Born in Australia, studied in Helsinki, and now resident in Paris, Lehtipuu came to Opera via a progressive rock-band, "inspired by music ranging from Gregorian Chant to heavy metal". His characterisation of Decio was excellent, and he made the most of the comic moments alloted to the role.
His high, supple Tenor effortlessly navigated the complex coloratura, and his interplay with Prina was perfectly co-ordinated. He smashed onto the Opera scene playing the part of Tamino in Die Zauberflote, and given his performance here, I can see why he was an instant hit. This is another performer I look forward to hearing more from.
All in all, Ottone in Villa was a definate hit. The soloists and the orchestra will be reuniting to take their roles once again in the recording studio. It will be a recording that I will definately purchase.