Francesco Gasparini: Il Bajazet, 1719

Performed by Leonardo De Lisi, Filippo Mineccia, Ewa Guban´ska, Giuseppina Bridelli, Antonio Giovannini and Auser Musici; directed by Carlo Ipata.

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Francesco Gasparini
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Francesco Gasparini
WORKS: Il Bajazet
PERFORMER: Leonardo De Lisi, Filippo Mineccia, Ewa Guban´ska, Giuseppina Bridelli, Antonio Giovannini; Auser Musici/Carlo Ipata Glossa GCD 923504 205:08 mins (3 discs)
CATALOGUE NO: 88875081922

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Il Bajazet, Gasparini’s 1719 opera seria, was a vehicle for one of the Baroque era’s greatest tenors, Francesco Borosini. The involvement of other 18th-century stars, such as castrato Antonio Bernacchi and soprano Faustina Bordoni, and their rivalries led Gasparini to create recitative-based ensembles, where characters could compete dramatically and musically; Bajazet’s frenzied curses in death form a climax of such writing throughout the opera. As a counterbalance, Gasparini also wrote solos of increasing difficulty, eventually handing the palm to Bernacchi, who played the Turkish emperor Tamerlano.

Based on a live production, this premiere recording has a mostly terrific cast. Leonardo De Lisi commands Borosini’s odd tenor-baritone register in the title role and communicates Bajazet’s brooding complexity even in the shortest of numbers. Countertenor Filippo Mineccia’s edgy, ferocious brilliance bring outs Tamerlano’s ever-simmering menace. Soprano Giorgia Cinciripi in her recording debut, and Polish mezzo-soprano Ewa Guba´nska, winner of the 2014 Handel Singing Competition, leaven the mood. In Bordoni’s role, Gubanska embodies sweetness, particularly in her penultimate aria ravishingly set to pizzicato violins.

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The musicianship of director Carlo Ipata and Auser Musici is superb. Yet even they can’t hide the opera’s longeurs. The second act is lazily scored, its arias full of formulaic melodic ‘spinning’ over chugging bass lines. Patience is, however, rewarded by this opera’s incandescent final scenes, which emboldened later librettists to depict heroic death on stage. Berta Joncus