Jommelli: Armida Abbandonata

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Ambroisie
ALBUM TITLE: Armida Abbandonata
WORKS: Armida Abbandonata
PERFORMER: Ewa Malas-Godlewska, Claire Brua, Gilles Raggon, Laura Polverelli, Véronique Gens, Patricia Petibon, Cécile Perrin; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
Niccolò Jommelli (1714-74) was said by some to be the greatest opera composer of the 18th century. This recording of his late opera is a reissue of the 1994 version (on FNAC) and still retains its immediacy and freshness.


The work is based on a chivalric tale about the crusades, and much of the music is of stunningly high quality. Ewa Malas-Godlewska as Armida is artfully responsive to its demands: her account of ‘Ah ti sento’ (Act II, Scene 5) is wonderfully tender and attuned to the complex accompaniment – subtly presented by the marvellous conductor and orchestra who have clearly thought about every phrase. In the faster music she can become yappy, as in the revenge aria ‘Odio, furor’, and her joint scenes with Rinaldo (Claire Brua) sometimes lack depth, though our listening experience is not helped by the complete lack of sound effects (the clashing swords and flashes of lightning stipulated in Act III, for example). Gilles Ragan as Tancredi and Véronique Gens as Erminia are both reliable, but only Laura Polverelli as Rambaldo seems to be able to colour her voice.


Mozart heard this work in 1770 and described it as ‘beautiful’. Repeated listening reveals that he actually borrowed significant aspects from it for his setting of Mitridate a few months later: what can we know of Mozart if we only Mozart know? Anthony Pryer