COMPOSERS: Arditi,Belgiojoso,Costa,Gabussi & Pedrotti,Gomes,Marliani,Poniatowski,Verdi
LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Songs, duets, by Arditi, Costa, Verdi, Belgiojoso, Gomes, Marliani, Poniatowski, Gabussi & Pedrotti
PERFORMER: Majella Cullagh (soprano), Jennifer Larmore, Manuela Custer (mezzo-soprano), Bruce Ford, Antonino Siragusa (tenor), Russell Smythe (baritone); David Harper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ORR 223
Opera Rara’s genius lies not just in its ability to rediscover lost works – in this case a powerfully dramatic, never-before-recorded canzone by Verdi, as well as rare and delightful pieces by various lesser-known Italians – but in the quality of performer it attracts.
Jennifer Larmore and Bruce Ford may be the ultimate stars in this recital of 19th-century salon music, but they are well matched by a first-rate pianist, David Harper, and an impressive roster of less celebrated singers recruited for bravura duets, trios and quartet.
Gabussi’s duet I pescatori calls for two agile tenors with brilliant high notes, and while Antonino Siragusa may not quite rival Ford in terms of lucency and polish, he’s a stylish artist nonetheless. The superb Larmore, too, meets her match in Manuela Custer, whose flexible mezzo has a burnished clarion beauty. For it is in the ensemble pieces that the recital excels itself.
Take Luigi Arditi’s Gloria alla beltà, a high-camp close-harmony trio (Larmore, Custer and the appealing soprano Majella Cullagh), or his Il desìo, an anything-you-can-do bravura duet, in which Larmore and Cullagh vie with each other’s vocal pyrotechnics.
But perhaps the most extraordinary inclusion is the final quartet, for baritone (the fine Russell Smythe), tenor, mezzo and soprano, an elaborately complex, infinitely ornamented round by Michael Costa, chief conductor of Covent Garden’s Royal Italian Orchestra when it was regarded as the finest in Europe. Claire Wrathall