WORKS: Operatic arias
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: 466 569-2
On the face of it, this release, which presents arias from some of Vivaldi’s much-neglected operas, is pretty irresistible. A singer of the sheer force of personality of Cecilia Bartoli is hard to resist. The voice’s vast range of pitch and colour is amazing. There is real fire in her belly. And yet, so often through this recital I sense that she takes things too far, that characterisation becomes caricature. She isn’t helped by the fact that her chosen instrumental ensemble is Il Giardino Armonico, not a group renowned for its subtle interpretations. Their high-octane approach to Vivaldi’s faster music might, on the face of it, seem dramatic and fresh, but it quite quickly palls, as does their equally extreme view of the slower music.
Vivaldi does touch extremes, but there are more than two of them. The disc, however, at least shows that Vivaldi’s operas are ripe for serious re-examination; many of the arias here, taken from nine different works, are worthy of Handel at his best; higher praise than that there cannot be. The packaging is slightly different to the run-of-the-mill CD, taking the form of a hard-covered CD-sized booklet. Full marks for that, but unfortunately the disc fits into a stiff cardboard sleeve fixed to the inside of one cover, and it’s difficult to take it out without touching the surface. Stephen Pettitt