Notes and Editorial Reviews
Serenata à Filli. Le Muse Urania e Clio Lodana le bellezze di Filli
Fabio Bonizzoni, cond; Emanuela Galli (
); Yetzabel Arias Fernández (
); Martín Oro (
); La Risonanza
Text and Translation)
This pair of
serenatas date from 1706, and each is scored for three voices and instruments. The parallels go further, though. Both are dedicated to the anonymous “Filli,” now thought likely to be Maria Isabella Cesi, niece of Pope Innocent XIII, and cultured wife of the arts patron Marquis Francesco Maria Ruspoli. (The evidence is circumstantial, but convincing: Another cantata of Scarlatti’s,
Amore e Virtù
, written for Ruspoli, has Virtue sing at its conclusion to the Prince, “as fervently as you, I yearn only for Filli.”) In
, Apollo and two of his daughters extol Filli’s virtues, beauty, and graces, while in the
Serenata à Filli
, three Arcadian shepherds lament their individual abilities to melt Filli’s heart. Finally, and most curiously, the two pieces appear to dovetail,
starting at dusk and ending sometime after night has fallen, while the
Senata à Filli
begins during the middle of the night, and ends with the first signs of dawn.
For all that Scarlatti himself wrote disdainfully of his roughly 30 serenatas, declaring that he spent little time and effort on each (they were “for the purpose of one night’s entertainment”), Donald Grout in the
notes that in part “because special performing resources were sometimes available” the music tended to be more elaborate than in many of the composer’s contemporaneous operas. They also blend striking melodic-harmonic ideas, contrasting thematic cells, and strong rhythmic considerations with Scarlatti’s always impressive contrapuntal mastery. This gives each aria as well as the occasional duet and trio of both serenatas a heightened individuality to our ears. “Se rivolge quegl’occhi inamora” in
seems almost Handelian in its witty juxtaposition of the careful and the mercurial, while “Ombre voi d’un cor fedele” from
Serenata à Filli
joins similar haunting pleas over ostinato basses composed by the likes of Monteverdi and Purcell against a lover’s cruelty, and is inferior to neither.
Fabio Bonizzoni reconstitutes some of La Risonanza’s forces for each of his projects, though usually with artists he’s directed before. Yetzabel Arias Fernández, for example, performed the role of Clori in his recording of Handel’s
Clori, Tirsi, e Fileno
(Glossa 921525), where I found that her vowels-only vocal production was attractive purely as sound, but gave little evidence “of the manipulative but charming shepherdess who leads her two beaus around on emotional leashes.” Here matters are better, the consonants still slighted but audible, and if her vocal color is unvarying, there are moments in Urania’s “Dunque in lei” where she attempts to lighten the sound. Martín Oro is one of the finest countertenors around today, and the best in my opinion in roles where half-shades are required—a sort of
countertenore di grazie
. His phrasing in Clio’s “Questa sì ch’in petto aduna,” and swelling and diminishing of the tone, are fine instances of his art. Emanuela Galli’s dusky lower register is less on display here than in her recent portrayal of Poppea (Glossa 920916), and rather more of her upper, thinner one, to less advantage in Fileno’s “No, non m’ingannate.” She handles her brief coloratura expertly, as do all three singers, while Bonizzoni provides his usual sensitive support.
One area where I do have concerns about this release is its sound: the placement of all three singers very close to the microphones, and significant added reverberance. It reminds me of easy-listening albums 30 years ago and more, when unimpressive vocalists were artificially given more volume by very close microphone placement, and more beauty by an almost echo-like artificial resonance. None of these three soloists need that, which leaves me wondering what was the goal of employing this aural approach to their art.
Reservations noted, I still derived much enjoyment from this release. Bonizzoni moves from strength to strength, and his focus on Baroque rarities helps restore many treasures that never deserved the designation of later generations as artistic ephemera.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Serenata a Filli - Tacete, aure, tacete by Alessandro Scarlatti
Martin Oro (Countertenor),
Emanuela Galli (Soprano),
Yetzabel Arias Fernandez (Soprano)
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