Tag: Genaux

Sunday Handel

8164-8OvCIL._SL1500_This recording of Handel’s Rinaldo was reissued recently. I had a bootleg of it that I had been enjoying for some time, but it’s nice to have the discs too, especially at the relatively cheap price (no booklet, though). I occasionally found Vivica Genaux’s (Rinaldo’s) vibrato wider than I liked – I liked her singing on that recording of Vivaldi’s Bajazet, for example, more than I did here. But “liked better” is relative – this is a very minor issue.

Some little things that I either had forgotten or did not know. Eustazio’s aria “Col valor, colla virtù” towards the end of Act I sounds a great deal like Handel’s “tra le fiamme” cantata (HWV 170) and I had forgotten how nice the harp part is during Almirena’s “laschia ch’io pianga.” Ditto the extended harpsichord breakdown during the end of Almira’s “vo far guerra” at the end of Act II. (Do you think baroque teenagers did air harpsichord? I was tempted to. Then again, air guitar often depend on no one else being able to see you looking like a doofus playing air guitar, which requires recorded music – so perhaps not.)

E quanti mai?

Have you ever read John Barth’s novel The Sot-Weed Factor? I mention this because there is a bit in it where the main character, poet-laureate of colonial Maryland Ebenezer Cooke, finds that he cannot find a rhyme to the phrase “a-coloneling”, spelled “a-kernalling” (I think this is the spelling – I am away from my books at the moment, so I can’t look it up). His friend Henry Burlingame ponders this, and then replies, with an evil gleam in his eye, that he too “cannot rhyme the infernal thing.” Ebenezer is just starting to get even grumpier when Henry starts spouting paragraph after paragraph of couplets that rhyme with “kernalling”, “infernal thing” “vernallings” “sempiternal things” and so on – at one point, he gets stuck, and then suddenly explodes with “Ha! ha! I have hatched more!” and then goes on for another page. It’s quite funny.

I bring this up because it seems to me that obscure non-Mozart Baroque versions of La Clemenza di Tito are a bit like English rhymes for “kernalling.” Just when you think you have found them all, someone hatches another one.


Vivica Genaux : A Tribute to Faustina Bordoni

20140307-205208.jpgThis recording is not as exciting as Genaux’s Vivaldi CD, but that’s probably because it’s mostly Hasse and Hasse is not as exciting as Vivaldi. That said, it definitely has its moments. The Handel selections are some of the high points (e. g. “ti pentirai crudel”) but I am not anti-Hasse by any means. the second track, “Qual di voi… piange quel fonte” from Numa Pompilio has some beautiful writing for the oboe and voice parts – the section near the end where it’s just mezzo and oboe alone is really nice. I always enjoy the sound of Genaux’s voice – you would never mistake her for anyone else – and the way she slides so effortlessly through all the coloratura that you hear not “ornament” but rather simple, direct expression. The oboe player is no slouch either – that is some elegant and expressive oboeing. Also noteworthy were the smaller, more intimate interludes of the overture to Didone Abbandonata. Like I said, I am unlikely to go on a Hasse bender independently of Genaux, but it has a certain amount of charm.

My last baroque blitz involved Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, and I admit I found the lively but never brow-furrow-inducing orchestral stylings of Cappella Gabetta restful. (I have enough forehead lines already, thanks.) I noticed this in both the aforementioned excerpt from Didone as well as the overture to Zenobia.

Finally, the circumstances under which this recording was acquired had the effect of confirming me in an opinion. I bought a cd out of necessity rather than downloading it, and because I usually leave my laptop at work I ended up listening to the recording via the actual disc. I was struck by how resonant it sounded. Low notes of harpsichords! Harmonics! Lute strings! I may be thirty-four years old and therefore on the youngish side as far as these things go (at least in the opera world) but you will pry my stereo from my cold dead hands.

(Addendum: imagine being named Faustina. “Hi! I’m Tina.” “Oh, is that short for Christina?” “No.”)

(I think in order to carry off being named Faustina you have to be either an epic Goth or Zsa Zsa Gabor.)

Vivaldi – Ercole sul Termodonte

20130610-205337.jpg When I first saw the title of this opera out of the corner of my eye, my brain read ‘Ercole sul Termodonte’ as ‘school on top of something that might have to do with baths.’ This did not seem like an extraordinarily winning concept for an opera. Fortunately ‘ercole’ is not the Italian word for school. It is the Italian word for Hercules. And while ‘terme’ is the Italian word for a spa or Roman-style public bath, Termodonte is something rather different. It is a type of dinosaur prone to sticking its head into hot springs; the name means “thermal-toothed” the place where the Amazons live.

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Two Arias about Birds

The video below contains two arias. The first is Vivica Genaux performing “Quell’Usignolo” from Geminiano Giacomelli’s opera Merope. You may guess this from the music itself, but the text makes reference to a nightingale. The second is Christine Brandes performing “Sweet bird, that shun’st the noise of folly,” from Handel’s oratorio/pastoral ode L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato. I really enjoy the flute part in this – it reminds me of “Se in fiorito ameno prato” from Giulio Cesare where Cesare is anticipating his hot date with “Lydia,” aka Cleopatra, and there is an extended interplay between the mezzo part and a solo violin. The flutist accompanying Brandes so pleasantly is Clara Novakova.

That’s all. It’s Friday, so I am not required to come to any conclusions.