I have read some frivolous carping regarding this fine, spendid recording. So what if the plot is garbage? We're talking about two CDs full of some the most ornate and varied baroque arias that you can ever hope to hear. If Vivaldi misses some of the counterpoint that works so well for Handel, Bajazet does not suffer for wont of it. If you don't like what you see on the bonus DVD, well, hey, they threw it in for free. If nothing else, it answers the essential question of how Vivica Genaux is able to sing Qual Guerriero di Campo Armato.
Being a pasticcio (pastiche) opera, we are treated to a stunning array of arias, that are lightening fast, slow and stately, pensive, jubilant, and in all cases opulent. Very few operas of this period can boast of such wealth of fine music that each character gets to sing at least two or three first-rate arias!
As glorious as the music is, Virgin Classics ups the ante by assembling one of the finest ensembles in recorded operatic history, in my opinion. What is most notable is that David Daniels is the sole countertenor, while there are three sizzling mezzos- Genaux, Marjanovic, and Garancia (forgive me if I misspelled the last two names). Genaux gets to sing the most ornate and dizzying aria of the whole opera, and thus top billing, but the other two mezzos hold their own. Marjanovic is a force to be reckoned with. She goes for broke, and proves that the has the goods to do so. The final aria of the first disc is an example of her powerful voice and technique. However, she also sings the most intimate and elegaic aria, La Cervetta Timidetta. I was and am spellbound by this aria, which is wonderfully restrained and heart-rendering. Garancia has a voice that is very harmonious, and a possesses a clean technique. Her bottom register will only grow richer as her voice ripens and matures. Her technique is best featured on Spesso, Tra Vaghe Rose. For someone so young, she exhibits fine discipline and taste in her singing.
The other lady of the set, Patrizia Ciofi, is another strong asset. One reviewer wrote that she isn't given much to do here. Idapse does have less music to sing, but Ciofi doesn't let that deter her. Nascia Rosa Lusinghiera is a gem- her voice scintillates, and one pictures a rose in full bloom, with droplets of fresh dew. Drew Minter, a countertenor who writes reviews for Opera News, stated that she sounds covered at time. Perhaps so, but she is dazzling nonetheless. Anche Il Mar Par Che Sommerga is one of the very best arias of the whole opera, and Ciofi does it justice. Listen to her rapid passagework, that is never bumpy or throaty. It will bring a smile to your face. As a final word, this aria was first recorded by Cecilia Bartoli, on her Vivaldi album. Believe me, Bartoli has nothing on Ciofi, at least in this particular case. Bartoli's treatment is too menacing and throaty.
David Daniels is a singer that I don't always admire. On some recordings, his middle voice sounds muddled, and his coloratura technique suspect. As Rinaldo, he sings Cara Sposa well, but can't quite get his hands on Venti Turbidi. Thankfully, Vivaldi's Tamerlano is well within his grasp, and he sings each aria wonderfully. He is widely praised for his interpretative ability and gift for turning a phrase. Cruda Sorte is a prime example, blinding in intensity. I can't imagine any other countertenor usurping Daniels here. The aria with the most bravura is Barbaro Traditor, and Daniels never lets the quicker tempo faze him.
Finally, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is not only fine to look at, but a fine singer. There is nothing about his voice or technique that I don't like. He suits the role well. His first aria is my favorite, but Dov'e La Figlia is also enthralling.
Finally, hats off to Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante. The sounds is also clear, fresh, and tasteful.