Arias by Arena, Capua, Cocchi, Conforto, Fajer, Galuppi, Piccinini, A Scarlatti, Vinci and Vivaldi
Bruno de Sá (sopranist); Il Pomo d’Oro/Francesco Corti
Erato 9029661980 71:04 mins
In 1588 Pope Sixtus V banned women from appearing on stage in the papal states. So castrati stepped into the breach, with Farinelli taking female roles in his youth, though never so celebrated as the cross-dressing star Giacinto Fontata, known as ‘Farfallino’.
Bruno de Sá, a young Brazilian who describes himself as a sopranist, possesses a remarkable voice that is maybe as near to that of the castrato as we can hope to hear: de Sá’s tone is firmer than many countertenors, with a greater vocal range and a perfectly respectable toffee-coloured chest register. His repertoire is unexpected, with many of these arias previously unrecorded. And while you can readily understand why Giuseppe Arena has been forgotten, Rinaldo di Capua, whose real name we don’t even know, composed a bravura aria for his heroine Berenice that combines thrilling vocal demands with genuine characterisation.
Bruno de Sá sings with immaculate legato, and has a gift for scintillating decoration, dramatic octave drops and stratospheric ascents above the stave. Two Arias from the principal female characters in Vivaldi’s Il Giustino reveal his range, the first swooping and diving like a seabird over the composer’s familiar driving strings and then by contrast a deeply moving lament from a woman at the end of her tether. The dependable Il Pomo d’Oro conducted by Franceso Corti offer elegant support throughout.