Anna Prohaska: Enchanted Forest

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cavalli; Handel; Monteverdi; Purcell; Vivaldi
LABELS: DG Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Anna Prohaska: Enchanted Forest
WORKS: Arias by Cavalli, Handel, Monteverdi, Purcell and Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Anna Prohaska (soprano); Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen
CATALOGUE NO: 479 0077

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Anna Prohaska’s recital takes us into the moss-carpeted dreamworlds of Ariosto, Ovid, Shakespeare and Tasso. The theme is transformation, by love or magic or a combination of the two. Arcangelo’s instrumental playing is reliably interesting, sometimes too interesting (Jonathan Cohen is not a ‘less is more’ director). But the most effective enchantment occurs when Prohaska stops trying to fit her dryish, coolish voice into a Patricia Petitbon-shaped presentation box.

Vivaldi’s ‘Alma oppressa’ (from La fida ninfa), Handel’s fast-boiling ‘Furie terribili!’ (Rinaldo), witty ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’ (Alcina) and atypically undistinguished ‘Combattuta da più venti’ (Giove in Argo) are neatly executed. The florid style of singing these arias require, fioritura, may pay the bills; but Prohaska’s real talent is for the earthy, wordy, rhythmically and emotionally multivalent declamations of Cavalli and Monteverdi. The first hint of this is in an unusually emphatic reading of ‘The Plaint’ (from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen), more bunny-boiler than fainting nymph. There is tremendous expressive vitality in the excerpts from Cavalli’s Calisto and Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne. Most surprisingly of all, Monteverdi’s Lamento della ninfa is the standout performance, brilliantly characterised by Prohaska, tenors Thomas Walker and Samuel Boden, bass Ashley Riches and Cohen’s continuo team. Published in the Eighth Book of madrigals, this is more like an opera compressed into mere minutes, as enthralling as the Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

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Anna Picard