German soprano Simone Kermes has earned plaudits for her athletic renditions of Baroque opera arias, and here she takes on some of the most strenuous of them all: arias composed by George Frederick Handel for Francesca Cuzzoni. This Italian diva (the album title La Diva seems to refer both to her and to Kermes) joined London's Royal Academy of Music opera company in 1718, and then, when Handel became the city's hottest composer of Italian opera, spent several years singing the most difficult parts he could devise. The relationship was apparently a stormy one at times, with Handel at one point threatening to throw the soprano out a window if she didn't cooperate. Cuzzoni's fame is attested to by the sheer volume of stories about her thatRead more have come down to the present time. One of the most famous of these stories had Cuzzoni duking it out on-stage with a rival diva, Faustina Bordoni; that one is now thought to be a fabrication, but it shows the passions Cuzzoni stirred up in her own time. From Kermes' readings it may be a bit hard to figure out exactly why people got so worked up, but these arias are a perfect match for her skills. Perhaps Cuzzoni and Bordoni were one of those classic technician-actress pairs (there is, of course, no way to know). Kermes is a precise technician. Her voice remains not only on pitch but downright beautiful over all the extremes of range and embellishment these arias contain, and her pianissimo (hear the middle of the aria "Piangerò," from Giulio Cesare, for one of several examples that must bring live crowds to their feet at the end) is extraordinary. In pure emotion-laden melody such as that of the famed "V'adoro pupille" from the same opera, Kermes is not quite as convincing. But there are more discoveries than chestnuts here, notably the series of marvelous arias from the less-familiar Siroe, and there are even a couple of world premieres of early versions of arias from Rodelina. These might have been interesting to pair with the later versions, perhaps as bonus tracks. But the presentation in general is both entertaining and intelligent, with booklet notes and translations of the Italian texts in both German and English. Berlin Classics' studio sound is superbly clear.
Riccardo Primo, HWV 23: Morte vieniby George Frideric Handel Performer:
Simone Kermes (Soprano)
Period: Baroque Written: by 1720; London, England
Featured Sound Samples
Scipione: "Scoglio d'immota fronte"
Giulio Cesare: "Piangerň la sorte mia"
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Exquisite KermèsJanuary 18, 2018By Richard A. (Cambridge, Cambs)See All My Reviews"I ordered this disc after hearing only the third track, Piangero..., on a radio programme, and despite the expensive mailing charge to the UK. But Im very happy that I did. Kermess voice is utterly distinctive: as delicate in the upper register as that of a boy treble such as Roy Goodman in the famous recording of Allegris Miserere, but with a strength and resonance to deliver the more robust passages with complete authority. The sensitive and flexible pacing in each number is also exceptional, ome of the features that distinguishes the performance of the instrumentalists as well as that of the singer."Report Abuse