Arias by Caresana, Cavalli, Cesti, Sartorio, Stradella, Vinci et al
Ian Bostridge (tenor); Cappella Neapolitana/Antonio Florio
Warner Classics 9029503707 68:51 mins
Recently Ian Bostridge has produced recordings of Schubert, Respighi and songs by Noël Coward – all intelligent and notable productions but quite some way away from early operatic arias. His last foray into this area was the title role of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in 2005, and in some ways this disc may be considered a belated extension of that exploration. It sets out to demonstrate that the tenor voice had an important role on the early stage, and it also takes us on a journey from the beginnings of opera in Venice (Cavalli, Stradella, Cesti) to Naples (Caresana, Provenzale, Fago) and then back to Venice again (Vinci, Legrenzi and Vivaldi).
Bostridge is at his best in those pieces requiring technically adroit command and intelligent poise. He floats through the busy roulades signifying the turning wheel of Fortune in Caresana’s ‘Tien ferma Fortuna’, and in Cesti’s ‘Berenice, ove sei?’ he eases his voice perfectly into the complex harmonies. Sometimes he concentrates on the lyricism or pushy bravura required at the expense of more subtle characterisation using the voice. The bravura is excellent in Vinci’s ‘Se il mio paterno’, but in his blood-curdling ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ we miss the dark, rasping savagery which can only be produced by surrendering a little of the impressive technique. The sunlight returns at the end when Bostridge serves up a wonderfully captivating performance of the traditional Neapolitan song, ‘Lu cardillo’ (made famous by, of all people, Joan Baez who in her version charmingly murders the Italian).