I Viaggi Di Faustina
Roberta Invernizzi triumphs in this recording, re-animating Baroque prima donna Faustina Bordoni’s legacy with grace and authority. The Italian soprano deftly captures Bordoni’s celebrated qualities with precision, noble invention and pure yet warm tone. She sings with a dramatic intensity, poised virtuosity and disarming spontaneity that shows us how Bordoni often moved her audiences to tears. Not merely a star showcase, this disc respectfully revisits a singer who influenced a generation of performers and composers.
There’s substantive historical research behind the recording’s programme. It’s exclusively of music by the Naples-based composers who helped make Bordoni famous: Nicola Porpora, Leonardo Vinci, Francesco Mancini, Domenico Sarro and Antonio Maria Bononcini. Now often dismissed with a yawn, in their day these artists were considered superior to Handel. The unfamiliar gems heard here, practically all recorded for the first time, show us why. Invernizzi shares not just Bordoni’s qualities but also her Midas touch, turning music that appears unexceptional on the page into golden moments. Like Bordoni, Invernizzi’s languor and limpid simplicity thrill the listener as much as, and sometimes even more than, her virtuosic additions. Extemporisations by the players also help unleash the expressiveness latent in seemingly simple motifs, as etched articulation brings out toe-tapping meters, or gossamer textures shimmer and melt into silence, to electrifying effect.
Director Antonio Florio fills the exchanges between Invernizzi and the players with suspense. A veteran of 18th-century Neapolitan repertory, he is alert to details implied but not notated, and brings to his intellectual command of the material a huge vitality and imagination. The sound quality is not only impeccable but also reflects a deep understanding of what this repertory needs: a warm yet intimate recording acoustic, strategic microphone placement and minimal editing. The liner notes enlarge our knowledge of Bordoni, for instance by reproducing a newly discovered and previously unpublished portrait.
This is the first instalment in Glossa’s new series dedicated to Baroque singers. To hear a Baroque sensibility collectively communicated with such depth is a pure delight. And to be shown the inspiration that a great singer can provide, both to composers and to other performers, is a lesson long overdue.