Vivaldi: Orlando Furioso

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi
WORKS: Orlando Furioso
PERFORMER: Anne Desler, Nicki Kennedy, Marina De Liso, Lucia Sciannimanico, Luca Dordolo, Thierry Gregoire, Martin Kronthaler; Coro da Camera Italiano; Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli
CATALOGUE NO: 777 095-2

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In 1727, in mid-operatic career, Vivaldi set Grazio Braccioli’s Orlando (furioso). It was premièred at Venice’s Teatro S Angelo where at the time the composer had full control of the theatre. Ariosto’s epic poem provided librettists with a rich seam from which to base texts treated in a wide variety of ways – heroic, comic and pastoral. Braccioli’s version is heroic and conflates the story of Orlando, his beloved Angelica and his madness with that of the evil sorceress Alcina on whose enchanted island the action is set. The double plot which results is effective and is complemented by one of Vivaldi’s most notably attractive scores. Barely four years have elapsed since another version of Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso was issued in an excellent, impassioned performance directed by Jean-Christophe Spinosi (on Naïve). The newcomer, with Modo Antiquo under Federico Maria Sardelli, is on a comparable interpretative level with a solo line-up which, if less ‘starry’, is hardly less appealing. In the title role is Anne Desler, a new name to me. Her somewhat male alto timbre well suits the role and her ominous ‘Sorge l’irato nembo’ (Act II) comes across splendidly. Nicki Kennedy (Angelica) is a seasoned Vivaldi singer who has brought distinction to her several previous performances of the composer’s music. Here she imbues her characterisation with clarity and warmth. If I prefer Marina de Liso’s darker and less vibrato-laden Alcina to that of Jennifer Larmore (Spinosi), then it is Philippe Jaroussky’s sympathetic Ruggiero (Spinosi) that leaves a stronger impression than that of Thierry Gregoire in the new version. In summary, here is another fine account of a dramatically successful piece, though Ruggiero’s virtuoso Act III aria ‘Come l’onda’ is needlessly omitted. Nicholas Anderson