Sacrificium

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Araia,Broschi,Caldara,Graun,Handel & Giacomelli,Leo,Porpora,Vinci
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Works by Porpora, Caldara, Araia, Graun, Leo, Vinci, Broschi, Handel & Giacomelli
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano); Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: 478 1521

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The ‘sacrifice’ of the title, as the lavish packaging of Cecilia Bartoli’s latest collection makes clear, is of ‘hundreds of thousands of boys in the name of music’.

The strange phenomenon of the castrato began because of St Paul’s injunction that women should remain silent in church before moving into the opera house and concert hall, and continued for centuries – the last certified castrato left the Papal Choir only in 1913. 

Bartoli’s selection of music comes from 18th-century Italian operas and oratorios, reviving the legendary skills of artists such as Farinelli and Caffarelli – the biggest stars of their day.

She proves well up to meeting the nigh-impossible vocal demands the music written for them makes on technique and breath control, and though her delivery occasionally borders on the over-emphatic, not least in the rapid-fire coloratura of arias from Porpora’s Siface and Araia’s Berenice, there is no denying her command of the music.

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As well as display, there’s real depth in such items as the exquisite ‘Quel farfalla’ by Leonardo Leo and Caldara’s ‘Quel buon pastor’. There’s a percussive thrill to these period-instrument accompaniments and the sound is well judged. George Hall