ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi Orlando Furioso
WORKS: Orlando Furioso
PERFORMER: Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Jennifer Larmore, Veronica Cangemi, Philippe Jaroussky, Lorenzo Regazzo, Blandine Staskiewicz, Les Elements Choir, Ensemble Matheus, Jean-Christophe Spinosi
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30393
Aristo’s epic poem Orlando Furioso provided a popular source of material for 18th-century playwrights and librettists and Vivaldi early on in his operatic career had set Grazio Braccioli’s Orlando finta pazzo (1714).
Thirteen years later, in mid opera career, the composer produced what we might consider among his finest operas, Orlando furioso, with a libretto once again by Braccioli. Like the earlier opera, the 1727 Orlando was premiered at the Teatro S Angelo in Venice. Though the plots of the two operas are similar – central to both is the madness of Orlando – the music for each is entirely different.
Jean-Christophe Spinosi has already proved himself a vitally imaginative Vivaldian, above all perhaps in the recently issued La veritˆ in cimento in the same edition (Opus 111). His Orlando is successful in many ways, notably for a gratifyingly strong cast of singers and an outstandingly accomplished instrumental ensemble. Add to these virtues Braccioli’s much more than serviceable libretto and the result is one that really does strike a powerful blow for Vivaldian opera.
There are too many alluring features to single out, but among the opera’s highlights are the mad scene in Act III, vividly sustained by Marie-Nicole Lemieux in the title role – her virtuoso aria ‘Nel profondo’ (Act I, Scene 5) comes off splendidly; Jennifer Larmore’s lively characterisation of the sorceress Alcina (the role had been created by Vivaldi’s talented protegé, Anna Giro); Ann Hallenberg’s accomplished, warm-toned singing in the role of the female warrior Bradamante; and Philippe Jaroussky’s sympathetic portrayal of Ruggiero, her husband and follower of Orlando.
Among the instrumentalists Jean-Marc Goujon’s flute obbligato in Ruggiero’s aria ‘Sol ta te’ (Act I) deserves mention. An outstanding achievement all round. Nicholas Anderson