Rosso – Italian Baroque Arias

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Handel,Marcello,Porpora,Sartorio,Scarlatti,Stradella and Vivaldi
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Italian Arias by Handel, Marcello, Porpora, Sartorio, Scarlatti, Stradella and Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Patricia Petibon (soprano); Venice Baroque Orchestra/Andrea Marcon
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8763

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After Patricia Petibon’s previous album Amoureuses, a far more consistent and indeed exceptional achievement, this is a seriously frustrating collection, alarmingly mixed in quality. Her technical and expressive skills in a varied selection of Baroque arias – some well known, others completely obscure – are real enough, yet her penchant for exaggeration makes some of them sound like caricatures rather than characterisations. 

These tendencies set in right at the beginning, with an aria from Antonio Sartorio’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, then extend though an account of Salome’s aria from Stradella’s oratorio San Giovanni Battista in which legato – a key requirement of Italianate singing – disappears in a welter of extreme vocal effects. Many of the (usually) faster arias suffer from problems of intonation.

The results sometimes sound grotesque, as in ‘Ah! mio cor’ from Handel’s Alcina. Yet even in this typically over-the-top performance there are wonderful moments, while in extracts from Sartorio’s Orfeo and Scarlatti’s Il Sedecia Petibon’s choice of colours is potent. Dalinda’s aria from Ariodante is frankly beyond her at the speed selected. 

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The period-instrument orchestra seconds and even encourages such extremity. The sound is as artificial as the performances. George Hall