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Caro Gemello: Farinelli and Metastasia

Valer Sabadus; Concerto Köln (Sony)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Caro Gemello: Farinelli and Metastasia
Works by C Broschi, Caldara, Conforto, Giacomelli, Hasse and Porpora
Valer Sabadus (countertenor); Concerto Köln
Sony 88985305382   71:50 mins

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This album of Baroque musical snapshots recalls the friendship between celebrated librettist Pietro Metastasio and the superstar castrato Farinelli, whom he affectionately called his ‘dear twin’ (‘caro gemello’). Extracts from oratorios and stage works by Caldara, Hasse and Porpora, and all-but-forgotten arias by shadowy names like Nicola Conforto and Geminiano Giacomelli trace their professional rapport. We even hear Farinelli’s own valedictory canzona ‘La Partenza’.

Concerto Köln – the silver-toned Rolls-Royce of period ensembles – handles this journey with suave style and flawless control. From the curtain-raising sinfonia to the final ‘pathos aria’, rhythms pulse and dance while the ever-changing musical scenes are shaded and lit with all the drama of the opera house. Romanian countertenor Valer Sabadus makes for a refined Farinelli, and where his smoky voice lacks in power, it gains in agility. He breezes through the coloratura arias, with their virtuoso roulades and vertiginous leaps (though his tendency to surge on the higher notes is tiresome; and Hasse’s ‘Di quello ch’io provo’ pushes his lower register a whisker beyond comfort). Sabadus really shines, though, in the more intimate arias: Caldara’s ‘Questi al cor’, to which he lends delicate grace, and the achingly beautiful ‘Quel buon pastor son io’, sung with a tender yearning. Perhaps the highlight of the disc is an aria which gave Handel a run for his money: Porpora’s ‘Alto Giove’, whose liquid melody and soft-ebbing strings let this vaporous voice float effortlessly.

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Kate Bolton-Porciatti