Auser Music perform Catone by Handel

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Catone
PERFORMER: Sonia Prina, Riccardo Novaro, Roberta Invernizzi, Kristina Hammarström, Lucia Cirillo; Auser Musici/Carlo Ipata

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‘I am just come from a long, dull, and consequently tiresome opera of Handel’s’ wrote John Hervey, Earl of Bristol, in November 1732, having seen Catone at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. After spending three months in Naples in 1729, where he heard the latest music by Leo and Porpora, the aristocratic opera lover could be forgiven a little ennui. Based on Metastasio’s libretto, Catone in Utica, with one character excised from the drama, nine numbers drawn from Leo’s Catone, six taken from various operas by Hasse, four by Porpora, three by Vivaldi, and one from Vinci, Handel’s concise pasticcio would have sounded more than a little familiar to Hervey’s well-travelled ears.

Happily, Catone sounds anything but familiar to ours. And although you might cavil at the billing on the cover of this recording, Handel being the only composer named, you’re unlikely to complain about the quality of the performance. Bristling, whiplash strings and fearless trills from Auser Musici’s natural trumpets in the Sinfonia set the tone for Carlo Ipata’s no-prisoners, pumped-up, pedal-to-the-metal reading of this composite score. Though contralto Sonia Prina veers periliously close to a Lady Bracknell boom as Catone, Riccardo Novaro’s Cesare and Kristina Hammarström’s Arbace are agile and expressive. As Emilia, Roberta Invernizzi brings tremendous style and imagination to Porpora’s ‘Priva del caro sposo’ and Hasse’s ‘Vede il nocchier la sponda’, while Lucia Cirillo (Marzia) scintillates in Vinci’s showstopper, ‘Vo scolcando un mar crudele’.

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Anna Picard