Arias for Domenico Gizzi

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COMPOSERS: Various composers
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Arias for Domenico Gizzi
WORKS: Arias for Domenico Gizzi
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922608

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Before Farinelli appeared on the scene, Domenico Gizzi was the darling of opera devotees throughout Italy. Like many great castrati, Gizzi trained in Naples, home for the absolutist taste that these singers, in all their strangeness, embodied. Launched in opera in Rome, Gizzi attracted a fan base that included Cardinal Ottoboni, Prince Ruspoli, and the ‘Old Pretender’ James Francis Edward Stuart. The castrato’s art was created for their delectation, and composers crafted the necessary vehicles.

Gizzi’s suave arias ravish the senses without ruffling the heart: suffering is plaintive, not wrenching; anger is startling, not threatening; ardour is urgent, not searing. For these effects, composers like Francesco Feo, Domenico Sarro and Alessandro Scarlatti wrote throbbing string accompaniment that deferred to the voice. Predictable on paper, this repertoire needs a superb vocalist capable of awakening its charms. Enter Roberta Invernizzi.

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Invernizzi is sovereign, commanding the band with the authority of an absolute ruler. Her execution dazzles through its seeming ease, as even fiendishly difficult passages yield to her delight in virtuosity. Particularly spine-tingling are her extemporisations: out of the most pedestrian triads, she forges melodies bold and ebullient. Listen, for instance, to Giovanni Bononcini’s ‘Barabare siete, o Dei’ (from L’Etearco) to hear how Invernizzi turns yawn-worthy harmonic progressions into stunning lyricism. Berta Joncus