Arias by Bottis, Cavalli, L Couperin, Destouches, C Pallavicino, A Philidor, Provenzale, Schürmann, Vivaldi and Viviani
Lea Desandre (mezzo-soprano); with Véronique Gens (soprano), Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano); Jupiter/Thomas Dunford (lute); William Christie (harpsichord)
Erato 9029506584 75:15 mins
Mezzo-soprano, Lea Desandre is a protégé of William Christie’s Le Jardin de Voix Academy, and has already issued a recording of Italian cantatas and another devoted to Vivaldi. Here she gives us a selection of opera extracts written between the 1660s and the 1720s. The theme ‘Amazone’ ticks all the boxes: it refers to that symbol of Nature in peril, the Amazon rainforest; it includes a breed of empowered women; and some of its arias were written for characters who cross dress. Desandre is joined by the famous performers Ceclia Bartoli and Véronique Gens (who duet with her), Christie and Thomas Dunsford – once referred to in this magazine as ‘the Eric Clapton of the lute’. No fewer than 15 of the 26 tracks are world premiere recordings.
We very quickly learn just how characterful Desandre can be with her amused, laughing reactions to women in battle in ‘Non posso far’, and the dark glitter of her voice in the melancholic ‘Lasciatemi morire’, both from Provenzale’s Lo schiavo di sua moglie. Technically and stylistically, too, she is very accomplished, with the breath control of a pearl diver in ‘Veni, corri’ and the darting agility of a jealous mind in ‘Sdegni fuori barbari’. The instrumental playing sometimes over squeezes the phrases with a rather mannered ‘intensity bulge’ in the middle (‘Muove il pie’), but many items are superb – especially Dunsford’s lute playing in Marais’ ‘Suitte d’un goût étranger’ full of delicacy and precision, and the wonderful aria ‘Onde chiare’ infused with birdsong and the sounds of nature.