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ALBUM TITLE: Vinci: Artaserse
WORKS: Artaserse
PERFORMER: Philippe Jaroussky, Franco Fagioli, Max Emanuel Cencic, Valer Barna-Sabadus, Yurly Myenko, Juan Sancho; Concerto Köln/Diego Fasolis; dir. Silviu Pucarete (Nancy, France, 2012)


The fate of Vinci, poisoned by his lover’s jealous husband, mirrors the colourful drama of his final opera, Artaserse; it’s a plot of entangled passions and violent ambitions, with a poisoned chalice at its dénouement. Real life and art fuse, too, in this mise-en-scène by Silviu Purc¯arete, in which the theatre crew mingles in the action, dressing tables are not backstage but on stage, and cameras glance behind the scenes. The production takes itself none too seriously, the Baroque absurdities of the plot enhanced by absurd costumes and headdresses – from ram’s horns to rabbit ears.

With alert and lyrical singing, Philippe Jaroussky characterises the eponymous prince of Persia as a youthful idealist, forced to judge the innocence or guilt of his much-loved friend Arbace. The latter role was created for the fêted soprano castrato Carestini, for whom Vinci penned solos of show-stopping virtuosity. Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli rises to the challenge, as he offsets vocal pyrotechnics with poignancy, plumbing the depths and scaling the heights of his florid and wide-ranging arias. Also written for castratos were the two female roles, sung here by countertenors Valer Barna-Sabadus – velvet-toned and very pretty as Semira – and Max Emanuel Cencic as Mandane, silver-voiced and dignified, despite wardrobes that are more pantomime dame than Persian princess. Under the taught direction of Diego Fasolis, Concerto Köln offers vibrant orchestral playing, the musicians doing their best to animate a rather four-square score.


Kate Bolton