Vivaldi's vocal music will, I believe, eventually be adulated on a level approaching Bach's. For those who have labored through the rocky trails of bizarre, overpriced, and obscure recordings of his sacred music, recently revitalized by Robert King and Rinaldo Alessandrini, to name two, his operatic repertoire is a godsend, all the more so since these latter CD's have been favored by truly excellent singers. And no wonder. Who, other than Bach (and, to lesser extent, Handel), forges the indissassociable link between instrumental and vocal writing, giving us wind instruments that sigh and weep and cadenzas that soar like violins (or, in the case of our altos, like violas)? Jordi Savall's Farnace is bold. The more-or-less incomprehensible plot, with its gratuitious secondary love story, is simply the occasion for the music. This is the forgiveness we have to extend to these Venetian operas in order to enter them. When they are graced with such singers as these, the music opens our ear, heart, and mind and lets the trumpet call in. I bought this recording, (full-price!), for its three contralti, Sara Mingardo, Gloria Banditelli, and, my current favorite, Sonia Prina. Ms Mingardo and Ms. Banditelli are long-time heralds of the true contralto in baroque music, but only Ms. Prina, at the ripe old age of 29, makes my heart both thrill and melt. Perhaps less so in this recording than her Aristea in Alessandrini's Olympiade with her incomparably languid force, than here with her Marilyn Horne-worthy coloratura, but as part of this ensemble her major talent announces a great work. I will confess another miscasting in the role of the "Amazone d'Oriente" Berenice in Ms. Fernandez (too sweet for a murderous, tyranical queen! Her photo belies the role 100%) but the blame lies elsewhere than in her voice. The surprises came with Cinzi Forte, aptly named indeed, and her wind-swept mastery, and even more so, Furio Zanasi, whom I have not heard since Rene Jacob's legendary Guilio Cesare (Achilla). His full-throated approach to singing can leave one overwhelmed, but that is desireable here in a man bent with grief for his dead son. His 9:09 minute long aria "Gelido in ogni vena" is beyond the pale, metaphor intended.
There is much to discover in these three disks and Savall's additions from Corselli's version are ultimately enriching. Final note: the set photos are dramatic, baroque, and utterly splendid, making you regret having missed the performance and hoping fervently for its revival.