Arias for Luigi Marchesi: The great castrato of the Napoleonic era

Works by Bianchini, Cherubini, Cimarosa, Mayr, Mysliveček, Pugnani, Sarti and Zingarelli

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COMPOSERS: Bianchini,Cherubini,Cimarosa,Mayr,Myslivecek,Pugnani,Sarti and Zingarelli
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Arias for Luigi Marchesi: The great castrato of the Napoleonic era
WORKS: Works by Bianchini, Cherubini, Cimarosa, Mayr, Mysliveček, Pugnani, Sarti and Zingarelli
PERFORMER: Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano), Francesca Cassinari (soprano); Stile Galante/Stefano Aresi
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 923505

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Luigi Marchesi (1755-1829) was the last great castrato of the 18th century. Boldness was his hallmark: he loved jumping across two octaves, visiting bizarre harmonic terrain in his cadenzas, and extravagantly decorating humble recitatives. Technically he was matchless – and to prove it, he wrote out extemporisations bursting with his signature moves.

This recording pays tribute to Marchesi’s creative mind and his luscious voice through a programme of his most celebrated arias with his own embellishments. There is perhaps no singer better able to meet this challenge than Swedish mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg: her rich timbre, the evenness of her register and the precision of her intonation evoke Marchesi’s vocal qualities convincingly. She delivers cadenzas and diminutions with careless ease. Most importantly she embraces Marchesi’s dramatic characters, whose enactment might confound a lesser singer. They are almost always heroes, who tend to either gloat or moan. Hallenberg moves beyond such formulae to probe – often through the subtlest vocal inflection – emotional depths hidden under the fioratura.

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Most of the arias here are world-premiere recordings, and many are gems, such as those by Giuseppe Sarti and Gaetano Puganini. Complementing Hallenberg is the conducting of Stefano Aresi, who makes the band subtly shadow her words. Berta Joncus