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Antonio Vivaldi: Arias from “L’Olimpade”, “La Fede tradita e vendicata”, “Orlando furioso”, “Tito Manlio”, “Semiramide”, “Il Tigrane”, “Catone in Utica”, “Il Tamerlano”, “Griselda”, “La Verità in cimento” & “Giustino”

Simone Kermes (soprano), The Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon (conductor)
Recording: Toblach/Dobbiaco, Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Gustav-Mahler-Saal (11/2006) – Recording time: 71'36
Archiv, #00289 477 6618 – Booklet in English, French, and German

This delightful disc is a follow-up to Amor Sacra, a disc of Vivaldi motets, also with Simone Kermes and the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon. It features thirteen arias, twelve from operas, plus one that cannot be ascribed to any opera. Providing an interlude is the opening sinfonia from Il Tamerlano (also known as Il Bajazet).

Simone Kermes has a healthy lyric sound and seems fully at ease with the varying demands of the arias. The disc is remarkably well-paced, each piece providing a pleasant contrast to the one preceding in both tone and tempo. The first number is stormy, the second lyrical, and so forth. The aria for Cleopatra from Il Tigrane is positively bi-polar. The orchestra (26 players are listed) has a wonderful biting sonority when required, as superbly displayed in the opening number. As one would expect from Vivaldi, many musical pictures are conjured up, from the several storms to the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings. The overall sound is spacious and airy unlike in so many studio recordings. The venue in the Alpine town of Tolbach/Dobbiaco is the site of an annual music festival and its acoustic properties no doubt contribute to the positive results.

The booklet has translations of all the numbers and a concise essay by Frédéric Delaméa explaining how each fits into the large and rather complex Vivaldi canon. It also notes that the orchestra’s tuning sets A at 440 Hz, in contrast to much baroque practice of setting it a half-step lower (i.e. at 415 Hz).

Five of the selections are world-premiere recordings and I was surprised to see that the aria from Orlando furioso is among them as I am familiar with the complete recording of that work on the Naïve label, conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi. (Frédéric Delaméa is credited as musical consultant for the Vivaldi Edition on that label). It turns out that Vivaldi composed the work twice, and the Naïve recording is of the 1727 version, whereas the Archiv disc contains an aria from the 1713 version which (and it’s good to avoid confusion) is sometimes called Orlando finto pazzo. Ms Kermes’s aria, Ah, fuggi rapido, is sung by the character Astolfo - who is a bass-baritone in the later version.

Similarly there are two versions of Tito Manlio represented on this disc. Vivaldi composed the work in 1719 for Mantua, and int the following year (for Rome) wrote only the third act as his contribution to a collective version of the piece.

Missing from the booklet is any information on the performers. Thanks to the Worldwide Web I have discovered that Soprano Simone Kermes is German (born in Leipzig) and in her repertory are many operas by Handel and Mozart as well as roles from later works like Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, Die Fledermaus and The Rake’s Progress. Conductor Andrea Marcon was born in Treviso and studied in Basel. He is also an organist and harpsichordist, and founded the Venice Baroque Orchestra in 1997. The group tours quite a bit and, based on this disc, I would eagerly take advantage of a chance to hear them live.

The best of recital discs takes the listener on a musical voyage and this is very happily among them.

Michael Johnson




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