ARIAS FOR ANNA DE AMICIS • Teodora Gheorghiu (sop); Chirstophe Rousset, cond; Les Talens Lyriques (period instruments) • APARTÉ 021 (77:14 Text and Translation)
Selections by JOMMELLI, MOZART, GLUCK, BORGHI, MYSLIVE?EK, J. C. BACH, CAFARO
Only a handful of singers during the Classical period achieved the superstar status that caused all and sundry to rave about their prowess. Soprano Anna de Amicis was one of these, forRead more the leading composers of the day sought to create works that were calculated to show off both her technically awesome vocal abilities and her famed acting ability. Charles Burney, especially, raved about her stunning high E? and the fact that she was able to do a true staccato, and Leopold Mozart said pithily that she “sings and acts like an angel.” That is high praise indeed, but perhaps it was fated to be so. She was born into a family of singers in 1733 and by the age of 20 was beginning to tour France and England as a professional. By the 1770s she was arguably the best soprano in all of Europe, and the fact that she was extremely personable did not diminish her reputation one bit (divas, take note!). What is more, she had the wisdom to end her career voluntarily in 1782 at the height of her fame, not only leaving the field open to successors, but not going into dotage as a fading light as her vocal powers waned.
This disc features Romanian soprano Teodora Gheorghiu’s attempt to compile a program of Amicis’s greatest hits, demonstrating that her reputation was not unwarranted. What is more, it is not just technical ability that drives the selections, but rather the works are chosen to give a broad overview of her capabilities, from supreme virtuoso to emotional dramatic actress, the latter of which doesn’t require those high altissimo registers or fiendish melismatic lines. For example, the aria “Che fiero momento,” that famous turmoil of conflicting feelings from Gluck’s Orfeo, seems like it is going to become a furore but then doesn’t provide the expected leaps and bounds. The composer instead writes something intense and relatively simple, allowing for the singer to act rather than display. In the Myslive?ek excerpts, the exact opposite is true. Here the vocal part is fiendishly difficult, with even an opportunity for an extended cadenza (just in case Amicis wasn’t finished displaying her talent), which Gheorghiu cautiously truncates in her short improvised version. The two J. C. Bach arias are what today might be called “Mozartean” with their extended concertante elements in the orchestral ritornellos. In the second aria, “Mentr voglio,” the oboe and bassoon lines seem to transport the listener into a lovely world of complementary timbres. The program notes mention a similarity with Mozart’s “Marten aller Arten” from his Turkish opera, Die Entführung, and they are not far off as the soaring lines of the soloists weave in and about each other. The two run-of-the-mill Italians, Giovanni Borghi (1738–81) and Pasquale Cafaro (1716–87), show the more conventional side of her art. The former is represented by an aria from Il trionfo di Clelia, which seems almost over-ornamented with long trills and rather precarious leaps, even though the vocal part itself is not excruciatingly difficult. The latter’s aria “Se balena” from his Neapolitan opera Antigono includes bravura leaps and runs, pushing the envelope of coloratura.
This disc is not meant to focus upon any one composer, but rather to demonstrate how a singer was able to inspire them to write specifically for her. This is very much a diva disc, with the composers, usually the basis for recording, as secondary characters. I cannot say whether Gheorghiu actually channels Amicis, but she is certainly up for the challenges imposed. She is able to elicit both drama and virtuosity, and in some places her vocal work is stunning. The Talens Lyriques orchestra provides its usual nicely paced accompaniment that is in tune and never overshadows the singer. Even the penetrating high horns of the first Myslive?ek aria are tonally integrated into the texture rather than being too prominent. If there is one quibble I have with the disc, it is with the booklet notes. Florence Badol-Bertrand rambles a bit, conventionally shifting everything toward the young Mozart at the end. She provides no fewer than 19 endnotes, and while it may be interesting to me as a musicologist to have the scholarly apparatus, I suspect the average listener would find the academic article perhaps a bit tedious. Still, for sheer listening pleasure, this is one disc that is highly recommended.
Orfeo ed Euridice: Che fiero momentoby Christoph W. Gluck Performer:
Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano)
Les Talens Lyriques
Period: Classical Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria
Another Gheorghiu Shines in the Opera SkyMarch 31, 2012By Joseph Vann (Madison, NJ)See All My Reviews"So many excellent Romanian singers and two with the same last name! At least I won't have to struggle trying to pronounce a new one as I tell everyone what a new discovery "I've" made! Teodara Gheorghiu explores the music performed by Anna De Amicis (much as Cecilia Bartoli has that of Maria Malibran) and introduces us (me, at least) to obscure music of Mozart and other, lesser-known composers who should not remain so. The arias are beautiful and so is the voice of this rising star. I hope we will soon hear more from this beutiful talented artist. Is it too much to hope for an appearance on this side of the Atlantic?"Report Abuse
Little known musicMarch 30, 2012By michael d. (winterville, GA)See All My Reviews"I was not familiar with this music but what a great disc and voice."Report Abuse