Prima Donna

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel; Vinci; Vivaldi
LABELS: ATMA Classique
ALBUM TITLE: Prima Donna
WORKS: Handel: Scherza in mar; No, non potra; Verdi piante; Dite pace; etc; Vinci: Tortorella se rimira; Vivaldi: Addio caro
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin (soprano); Arion Orchestre Baroque/alexander Weimann


Karina Gauvin, the Canadian soprano, is an artist I always look forward to hearing. Her warm-timbred voice, impeccable intonation, athletic technique and tautly controlled vibrato are virtues ideally suited to the exacting musical demands of Baroque opera. She is furthermore sensitive to textual nuance, bringing expressive subtlety to her chosen arias, notably in ‘Verdi piante’ (Handel’s Orlando).

This disc is in effect a Handel recital with two interlopers: Vivaldi and Vinci. Their arias, one apiece, seem at first glance inconsequential, until we discover that they were given to Anna Strada, Handel’s leading soprano during the 1730s. Strada sang all but two of the roles – Emilia (Flavio) and Meleagro (Atalanta) – featured in Gauvin’s recital.

Gauvin explores some of the vast expressive vocabulary with which Handel enlivens the characters of his heroines, ranging from ‘Dite pace’ (Sosarme), calling on her exuberant coloratura, to Alcina’s affecting ‘Ah! mio cor!’ with its limpid accompaniment. The excellent Arion Orchestre Baroque offers sympathetic support throughout, including the overture to Lotario and two movements from Handel’s Concerti grossi. Alexander Weimann directs stylishly from the harpsichord.


Nicholas Anderson