Geminiano GIACOMELLI (1692-1740)
Gianguir: Mi par sentir la bella [9:43], Vanne si, di al mio bene [7:11]
Giuseppe Maria ORLANDINI (1676-1760)
Adelaide: Non sempre indivendicata [5:38], Quanto bello agl'occhi miei [15:22], Scherza in mar [5:44], Vedro più lieto e belle [8:40]
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Filandro: Il tuo core in dono accetto [4:07], Fior ch'a spuntar si vede [3:31]
Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768)
Semiramide: Il Pastor, se torna aprile [6:28], In braccio a mille furie [3:04], Bel piacer [8:35]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Catone in Utica: Soffre talor del vento [6:48], Ombra cara [9:22]
L’abbandono di Armida: Nave altera [4:17]
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo soprano)
Il pomo d’oro/Stefano Montanari
rec. 2016, Lonigo, Villa San Fermo
Texts and translations included
PENTATONE PTC5186678 SACD [52:23 + 46:17]
Whilst the presentation may seem excessive – two discs running 98 minutes in a box – the performances are fully worthy of the extra space this is going to take up on your shelves. The premise of Ann Hallenberg’s latest recording is a selection of music from seven operas performed in Venice during its frantic eight-week Carnival period between Christmas 1728 and the end of February the following year. The repertoire was hot off the press, the singers included many of the continent’s finest – not least because Senesino and Francesca Cuzzoni had just left Handel’s dissolved opera company in London and headed straight to Venice - and audiences were plentiful. Add to this the presence in the city of Farinelli and the mezzo soprano Faustina Bordoni and you had a combustible collection of super-virtuosos to espouse the latest operas from Albinoni, Porpora, the Leonardos Leo and Vinci, and their compositional confreres.
The first disc offers pieces by the two least-known composers, Geminiano Giacomelli and Giuseppe Maria Orlandini. The former offers a plaintive oboe over orchestral pizzicati in Mi par sentir la bella from Gianguir and the instrument shadows the singer’s melismatic line beautifully, offering its song of love and stentorian B section, after which Hallenberg ornaments with great sensitivity and appropriateness. Orlandini’s Adalaide offers four extracts including one long quarter-of-an-hour one – long, perhaps, in timing but with no longeurs. Her feisty coloratura, precise trills, registral leaps down to the chest voice, and her extreme clarity of declamation make these extracts live with vivid force. Few today can put over a storm aria like she can and Scherza in mar la navicella is a brilliant example of her power and intensity, just as much as the long Quanto bello agl’occhi miei is an example of her lyricism, tonal superiority and inwardness of expression – as well, indeed, as some ravishing orchestral playing under the inspirational Stefano Montanari.
The two extracts from Albinoni’s Filandro do what such things should; make one want to hear the whole opera. And that applies just as much, if not more so, in the case of Porpora’s Semiramide riconosciuta. There are three extracts of which one – the vivid showcase aria written for Farinelli In braccio a mille furie – is the only piece of music in the entire selection that has previously been recorded. Everything else is heard in a world première recording. Il pastor, se torna aprile is one of Porpora’s gorgeously ingenious sprung Sicilianos – alluringly played and sung with an affecting legato – but Bel piacer saria d’un core is slow, sustained, and expressive and sports a memorable melody line. Surely some investigative company is going to record this opera? Very sensibly the recital ends with the contrast of Leo’s Catone in Utica – suffering depth of feeling – and to finish Vinci’s Nave alter ache in mezzo all’onde, a fiery, unstoppably virtuosic closer.
Il pomo d’oro have won their spurs in this kind of repertoire but continue to prove masterful under their leader and director Montanari. And as for Hallenberg, she’s a tremendous artist perfectly attuned to the milieu. Never mind the width of the box, hear the quality.
Previous review: Michael Cookson