Arias by Bononcini, Caldara, Gasparini, Handel, Porpora and Vivaldi
Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); Orfeo 55
Erato 9029520955 75:38 mins
Nathalie Stutzmann is an acclaimed singer and also conductor of the Kristiansand Orchestra in Norway and a guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Here she simultaneously sings and conducts, which adds a mutually beneficial vocal and orchestral immediacy to the performances – even in the technically risky ‘E morto’, from Vivaldi’s Bajazet, an emotionally erratic recitative accompanied by full orchestra. This selection of arias for both men and women – including five world-premiere recordings – offers a fascinating homage to women in the 18th century who performed both types of role.
Stutzmann’s voice is impressively flexible in timbre and her instincts are thoroughly musical if sometimes adventurous rather than stylistically fastidious. Her ornamentations can be almost flamboyantly rhapsodic (Porpora, ‘Torbida intorno’), but that is part of her talent for acting with the voice (as in Porpora, ‘Tradita, sprezzata’). In some fast items (Handel, ‘Mio cor’) she becomes a little snatched and abrasive, but elsewhere her capacity for liquid fluency (Bononcini, ‘Cara addio’) and purity of tone (Gasparini, ‘Empia Mano’) are entrancing. The instrumental contributions are often admirable, though the bass line can be heavy and slightly flat (Handel, Berenice Act III Sinfonia). Most impressive is the cello obbligato (performed by Alice Coquart) in Vivaldi’s ‘Di verde’ which ends with a touching duet cadenza with the voice.