LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Opera and concert arias
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens (soprano), Melvyn Tan (fortepiano); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Ivor Bolton
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45319 2
This is an enjoyable collection of
all-time favourites, with the single early piece (‘O temerario Arbace’) sounding in such company like the child’s exercise it is. There is a
general problem with such anthologies: in this case, the ten pieces were written for nine different singers, two of them castrati.
Anyone would be hard-pressed fully to represent the dramatic range of this music, nor does it help that four of the arias are in rondo form, and four are in the same key (E flat).
Not surprisingly, Véronique Gens can sound dispassionate, as in the marvellous concert aria ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te’, where Melvyn Tan’s fortepiano resounds more exquisitely than emotionally. This was written for the first Susanna in Figaro; but the two arias each from Figaro, Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito are taken from different roles. On this basis I would select Gens for the Countess more readily than Susanna or Cherubino; for Donna Elvira than Zerlina; and (less decisively) for Vitellia than Sesto. But in the preferred roles, and Fiordiligi whose two arias are included, these performances are finely judged and stylish; the accompaniment is in the hands of a good Mozartian, and the orchestra is in excellent fettle, not least the horns in ‘Per pietà’.