Notes and Editorial Reviews
Topi Lehtipuu (ten); Diego Fasolis, cond; I Barocchisti; Swiss RTV Ch
NAÏVE 30504 (65:28
Text and Translation)
Tito Manlio. Arsilda, Regina di Ponto. La Costanza trionfante. Tigrane. L’Incoronazione di Dario. Artabano, Re de’Parti. La Verità in cimento. Dorilla in Tempe. Farnace. Bajazet
On two levels, this release commands attention. First, recitals
of Vivaldi’s tenor arias don’t appear every day. In fact, this is the first one I’ve encountered in decades of collecting. Second, this seems to be the first CD that tenor Topi Lehtipuu (born in Australia to Finnish parents) has all to himself, more or less, and he’s a find. He’s already somewhat familiar for his work in Mozart, and this is an impressive addition to his curriculum vitae. Those who complain about the dearth of opera singers “like in the good old days” (meaning the 1950s) just need to focus their attention on singers who specialize in the Baroque and early Classical repertoires, which were poorly served in the 1950s. We’re in the middle of a second golden age; it’s just that the composers aren’t Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner anymore but Monteverdi, Handel, and Vivaldi.
Frédéric Delaméa’s informative booklet note indicates how Vivaldi, unlike many of his contemporaries, valued the tenor voice, and did not want to marginalize it in his operas. Most of Vivaldi’s important tenor roles were written for one of three singers: Annibale Pio Fabri, Antonio Barbieri, or Giovanni Paita. Many of the arias on this CD originally were associated with one of these three singers. Like a Broadway composer, Vivaldi wrote alternative arias to suit his stars, when the original aria was not having its intended impact, or simply to create novelty as an opera was given many times in the same season. In the case of
Arsilda regina di Ponto
, we are given not one, not two, but three contrasting versions of an entrance aria for that opera’s Prince Tamese. Recycling, not an infrequent practice during the Baroque era, can be heard most dramatically in the closing selection, which is a chorus from
Dorilla in Tempe
. (Not Arizona, obviously!) Here, Vivaldi lifts the opening melody from the first movement of the “Spring” Concerto from
The Four Seasons
and refashions it into a chorus about—what else?—the joys of spring.
Vivaldi’s arias do not contain the fine psychological insights one associates with Handel, and which blossom with Mozart and his operatic successors. One tenor expressing determination, or regret, or what have you in Vivaldi is pretty much like any other tenor expressing the same emotion elsewhere in this composer’s oeuvre. Interpretively, there’s only so much a tenor can do with this material, so let’s not blame Lehtipuu if you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. (Do they still say that in baseball stadiums?) Nevertheless, what Vivaldi’s arias lack in subtlety they recoup in energy, drama, and poignant feeling, and Lehtipuu does not lack any of those qualities. Indeed, his sound is heroic, and as a ruler or a warrior, he is very convincing. At the same time, his softer singing is of a melting loveliness, and it is hard to imagine a listener not being bewitched by, for example, his performance of the aria “Care pupille” from
. His command of Vivaldi’s most florid writing is strong, if lacking the panache that other singers (Cecilia Bartoli, Vivica Genaux, etc.) have brought to it. Still, he gets the job done, and then some.
The Chorus of Svizzera Radio and Television is suave and stylish in its modest contributions to this CD. Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti, on the other hand, play with bite and dash. Try the aria “Alle minacce di fiera belva” (
), in which the suffering lover, setting a figurative trap for his would-be beloved, is compared to a determined, patient hunter—cue for a pair of baying hunting horns! The brief (under five minutes) Concerto Ripieno included early in the program gives the ensemble a chance to shine on its own.
Lehtipuu will record a Mozart recital one of these days, and many will be impressed. Don’t wait, however, to make his acquaintance. Even if you are dubious at the prospect of more than an hour of arias by Vivaldi, you just might be in for a pleasant surprise.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title