Vivaldi: Opera Arias and Sinfonias

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Opera Arias and Sinfonias
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano), The Brandenburg Consort/Roy Goodman
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66745 DDD
Vivaldi’s operas have fallen into obscurity. Yet he was an extremely prolific composer for the stage, claiming to have written over 90 dramatic works. This disc presents extracts from seven of the 20 or so that survive. Their Sinfonias would originally have served to draw the audience to attention for the spectacle which followed; here, their main purpose is to break up the vocal numbers, as they’re musically far less interesting. These, however, embrace a range of styles and dramatic techniques, from the exquisite lyricism of ‘Se mai senti’ (Catone in Utica), to the vocal acrobatics of ‘Agitata da due venti’ (Griselda). Emma Kirkby’s performance of the latter will no doubt delight contemporary listeners as much as the original soprano must have thrilled her Venetian audience.

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Recitative and arioso are used to create a powerful dramatic scena in ‘Ferma, Teodosio’; and in ‘L’ombre, l’aure’ Vivaldi exploits the then popular echo effect to produce a haunting evocation of an ‘unhappy soul’. Emma Kirkby sings throughout with intelligence and sweetness of voice. The orchestral playing is pleasantly light and transparent, if occasionally a little unyielding. Kate Bolton