Notes and Editorial Reviews
This title comes with a synopsis in English.
Claudio Scimone, cond; Marilyn Horne (
); Victoria de los Angeles (
); Lucia Valentini-Terrani (
); Carmen Gonzales (
class="ARIAL12">); Lajos Kozma (
); Sesto Bruscantini (
); Nicola Zaccaria (
); I Solisti Veneti
ERATO 2564 67926 (3 CDs: 162:59)
Those familiar with the highly hyped Spinosi recording of this opera may not recognize it in this 1977 incarnation, and not just because Ruggiero is sung by a baritone and not by a mezzo-soprano. The phrasing, accents, and overall conception of the music are so radically different from today, even though this was made on the cusp of the Baroque revival, that for many historically informed listeners, it’s just too old-fashioned, the style incorrect. For one, the voices are all big and operatic—how horrible! For another, both the singers and orchestra produce a consistent legato, even in the recitatives—how wrong! And, worst sin of all, the strings do not play with straight tone. String them up!
But who’s to say how much of this is wrong? Or how much of Spinosi’s performance is right? The assumption is that, because Baroque theaters were quite small, volume wasn’t necessary. Probably true, but to claim that
singers of the Baroque era had large voices, or that vocal size was not unequal even in the same production, is just speculation. As for musical style, I seriously doubt that Baroque performers didn’t know what legato phrasing or dynamics were, or didn’t sing with dramatic feeling. Several singers named by Tosi were, in fact, famous for their
as well as energy. Rattling everything off at top volume and/or top speed doesn’t always equate to drama, or—as I maintain—the only way to perform an opera in those days.
There are three absolutely amazing performances on this set, and not because the voices are more or less beautiful than usual: those of Victoria de los Angeles, Marilyn Horne, and Sesto Bruscantini. The first-named sings here with dramatic expression, cleanly executed coloratura runs, and trills, none of which she was known for through most of her career. By dramatic expression I do not mean the generalized drama of her Butterfly, but word-painting and attention to text, of getting inside the character. Her coloratura runs here are far more cleanly executed than on her famous recording of
Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
As for trills, yes, she attempted a couple of imperfect ones on her recordings, but none in her Jewel Song from
neither the mono recording from 1952 nor the stereo remake of 1957, neither in Nedda’s 1953 “Ballatella” nor in Antonia’s music in the 1965
But here, suddenly, Victoria is loaded with trills—she even sings an ascending scale of them in her first-act aria—and they are cleanly defined trills, not that half-hearted little shake that she made pass for a trill in her earlier days.
Horne sings through the first act with her usual flawless technique and impassioned, all-purpose energy, but toward the end of act II she suddenly erupts in dramatic outbursts. Where did
come from? And she continues to surprise with more dramatic outbursts in act III. Granted, she’s not Janet Baker, but it’s still better than average Horne.
As for Bruscantini, he was a famous
baritone known for rapid patter but not for Baroque music. He copes surprisingly well, not as scrupulous as the distaff side of the cast but still ably working his way through difficult runs and, yes, even a trill here and there. Plus, as usual, he sings with tremendous expression, which makes the music come to life.
Lucia Valentini-Terrani, of course, is often considered a bridge performer between the old days and the new, and her performance here, though containing some touches now considered quaint, is close enough to the modern style to pass muster, but the one singer on this set who would still be welcome in today’s Baroque style is contralto Carmen Gonzales. She is simply astonishing, both vocally and musically, and her performance of Bradamante’s music is spot-on. Lajos Kozma has a surprisingly dark tenor voice, and is the least technically fluent singer in the cast, yet he still manages a wonderful downward cadenza and also sings with expression.
This recording has been through a couple of incarnations but seemingly out of print for some time. In keeping with all the other budget-priced reissues Warner Classics has done from the Erato catalog, no libretto is included, but it’s still a good buy, and still amazing after all these years. Without knowing this work’s history, I don’t know if the overture used here is the authentic one, or even if it was written by Vivaldi (he infamously farmed out overtures and even arias to his pupils), but I find it to be the poorest piece of music in the opera. Otherwise, recommended.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Orlando furioso, RV 728 by Antonio Vivaldi
Nicola Zaccaria (Bass),
Victoria de los Angeles (Soprano),
Sesto Bruscantini (Baritone),
Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano),
Lucia Valentini-Terrani (Mezzo Soprano),
Lajos Kozma (Tenor),
Dalmacio Gonzalez (Tenor)
I Solisti Veneti,
Friends of Polyphony Chorus
Written: 1727; Venice, Italy
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