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Vivaldi: Orlando furioso

Marie-Nicole Lemieux , Jennifer Larmore , Veronica Cangemi , Philippe Jaroussky , Ann Hallenberg , et al. Audio CD

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Vocalism in Vivaldi's Best-Known Opera Jan. 26 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This review cannot be definitive as I am far from being an expert on Baroque opera. But I have long loved the recording of this opera, 'Orlando Furioso,' made many years ago, but drastically cut, by Claudio Scimone with the Solisti Veneti and featuring the almost superhuman singing of Marilyn Horne as Orlando. Add to that the Angelica of Victoria de los Angeles, Lucia Valentini-Terrani as Alcina, and Sesto Bruscantini as Ruggiero and you have a nigh-unbeatable combination. But this set not only gives us an uncut version of Vivaldi's opera (with some additions suggested by musicologist Frédéric Delaméa, additions which fill in gaps in the original materials from which this performance was produced), it features, amazingly, voices that are fully the equal of those in the fabled Scimone recording. Some roles have been re-assigned: Ruggiero is sung by a counter-tenor here (as opposed to Bruscantini's baritone); Medoro is sung by a mezzo, rather than a tenor.

One quibble I have about the Horne performance is that she made the role of Orlando, with all its vocal gymnastics, almost a caricature (forgive me, Horne fans! I'm one, too, after all). In the present recording Canadian mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux not only sings as well as Horne, but limns the character with greater sensitivity. Her ornamentation is not quite as spectacular, but it's also not as, how shall I say?, show-offy. And the ornaments are more in keeping with practice of 1727 when the opera was premièred, I believe. Lemieux is fully capable of Horne's acrobatics, so it's not a matter of lack of technique, it's more a matter of (gasp!) taste. A larger question arises about the replacement of the role of Ruggiero sung by a baritone (Bruscantini) with a counter-tenor (the sweet-voiced Philippe Jarrousky). In fact, though, at the first performance Ruggiero was sung by a mezzo who specialized in pants roles, so perhaps using a counter-tenor is more appropriate. In any event, Jarrousky is superb, bringing an appropriate delicacy to the role. Angelica, sung ravishingly by the Argentine soprano Veronica Cangemi, does not make us forget the late, beloved Victoria de los Angeles, but her performance does not suffer in comparison either. Jennifer Larmore has a complete triumph in her performance of Alcina which is, I feel, actually superior to that of Valentini-Terrani.

Instrumental support by Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his Ensemble Matheus is lively, sensitive and brilliant. Special mention must be made of the lovely flute obbligato in Ruggiero's aria, 'Sol da te, mio dolce amore,' played radiantly by Jean-Marc Goujon. Supporting roles are also well sung, in some instances better than on the Scimone set. I think this set heralds the real arrival of Marie-Nicole Lemieux on the international scene, at least on records. She has made some wonderful CDs, mostly on smaller labels; I raved about her recording with Tafelmusik on Analekta but was less taken with her Brahms lieder recital on the same label. I suspect this recording will bring her appropriate acclaim.

Strongly recommended for lovers of superb singing.

3CDs: 181 mins

Scott Morrison
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful singers make this recording a joy April 2 2005
By Eric Erwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
It is thrilling to see more of Vivaldi's operas being recorded. However, this recording of Orlando Furioso may not be for everyone. Jean-Christophe Spinosi's style of conducting is described in the liner notes as "physical;" and this is certainly true. He asks the Ensemble Matheus to `punch' Vivaldi's openings and to accent each phrase with sharp articulations. The singers soar through their runs at break-neck speed, which makes for exciting listening. But Spinosi pushes the tempo of every aria, so much so that many of them clock in at under three minutes. Even the adagio arias move along at a quick pace. For listeners accustomed to the heart-wrenching, gentle interpretations of Baroque opera offered by Rene Jacob and John Elliot Gardner, Spinosi's interpretation may seem blunt and over-done. Spinosi is a young conductor leading youthful singers, and all are clearly excited by Vivaldi's music. However, this recording lacks the mature guidance and interpretation of more experienced musicians, and thus may bother some veteran connoisseurs of Baroque opera.

The quality of the singers on this recording is astounding. Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux evokes memories of Marilyn Horne, although her phrasing and vibrato is often more pleasant than Ms. Horne's. Jennifer Larmore is a delight, and sings the part of the sorceress Alcina with great skill and passion. Veronica Cangemi, Ann Hallenberg and Blandine Staskiewicz all have fine voices, and are destined for exciting careers and great acclaim. Of particular interest are the male singers: Venetian bass-baritone Lorenzo Regazzo (who sounds like a combination of Samuel Ramey and Bryn Terfel!) and the young counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky. Often, male singers are `tacked on' to Baroque opera recordings and lack the skill and quality of their female counter-parts who enjoy the leading roles. Not so in this recording: both men demonstrate voices and training of the highest quality, and sing Vivaldi's music with great skill, enjoyment, and intellectual depth. Buy the opera just to hear the singers demonstrate their talents!
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unheralded Vivaldi Masterwork Given a First-Class Production Feb. 7 2006
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Composer Antonio Vivaldi may always stand in the shadow of his contemporary Handel when it comes to Baroque compositions, and the distinction between the two is further blurred by the fact that both composed operas based on the same epic poem, Ludovico Ariosto's "Orlando furioso". Vivaldi's 1727 opera came about eight years prior to Handel's "Alcina". Unsurprisingly, while several recordings of "Alcina" have been produced (including a particularly strong one of the 1999 William Christie-conducted Paris Opera production with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham released in 2000), this is the first full recording of Vivaldi's work, part of the Naive label's commitment to bring Vivaldi's largely unknown but beautifully composed operas to light.

Based on this stellar ensemble performance, I would argue that "Orlando furioso" is the stronger of the two works based on the recitatives, which are far more dramatically gripping, and the arias which not only showcase splendid voices but provide an intractable context for the intense drama of the story. The lush performance here captures Vivaldi's insinuating melodies which are full of voluptuous ornamentation. The shimmering orchestral passages are complemented by vibrant choruses that mirror the dramatic shifts in Grazio Braccioli's treatment of Ariosto's eventful poem. His libretto manages to keep the essence of the story but deepens the humanity in blending epic history with the supernatural. Similar to Handel's "Alcina", Vivaldi depicts a set of lively gallery of characters with individualistic personalities in a fanciful plot that moves at a breakneck pace.

At the center are two storylines that complement each other, the grand sweep of Orlando's madness and the tragedy of Alcina's downfall. In the title role as Charlemagne's nephew who falls deeply in love with Angelica, arguably the most dramatically challenging of the ensemble, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, a young contralto from Quebec, must make sense of the lovesick knight, and she does it with passionate delivery and a superb lower register. The richness of her tone is necessary to reflect Orlando's decline into dementia at the end of Act II and the series of "mad scene" monologues in Act III. As Alcina, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore brings an imperious tone and supple edge to the powerful but doomed sorceress, who suffers for her love of Astolfo and then of Ruggiero. Soprano Veronica Cangemi brings a lovely, ethereal quality to the role of Orlando's beloved Angelica.

Bass-baritone Lorenzo Regazzo brings a palpable lushness to his vocally powerful characterization of Astolfo, and the proud female warrior Bradamante is sung by mezzo soprano Ann Hallenberg with stunning verve. As the valiant Ruggiero, rising countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is outstanding, and his arias provide the most poignant moments of this production He is particularly adept at blending his ethereal sound with all the very different voices of the other singers. Under the fluent direction of Baroque specialist Jean-Christophe Spinosi, the Ensemble Mateus proves expert in accommodating the variety of voices with instrumental nuance. If nothing else, this superb recording will introduce Vivaldi to a new generation unfamiliar with his dexterity in the Baroque genre.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Favorite June 23 2006
By Dennis Figueroa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is the opera that turned me on to Vivaldi, and started my interest in mining his music. Not only does his music have a unique and distinguishable style, but also an inimitable energy that is purely musical and pleasing to the senses. To enjoy this opera, one only needs just to listen to it.

Orlando Furioso is very characteristic by its mood arias and temperamental swings from madness to melancholy such as in "Andero, chiamero, dal profondo" and "Sol da te". Because this opera was written in the "disco years" of baroque bel canto, the singing is rich, florid, and very demanding. Most of the arias sharing these "disco-like" qualities are sung by the character of Orlando. Taking this role is a tall order for a singer that is not Marilyn Horne. She made "Nel Profondo", and "Sorge L'irato Nembo" her signature "hits" in a time when Vivaldi Opera performances were rare, and before the years when Bartoli elevated singing of Vivaldi arias to a new art form. Though refreshing, the execution of these arias in the album can't escape to be overshadowed by Horne's.

"Sol da te" is one of Vivaldi's most beautiful mood arias, and no doubt that Philippe Jaroussky its best interpreter to date. The aria is bewitching, hypnotizing, and its performance so flawless that his voice blends with the flute into one single musical instrument.

Veronica Cangemi sings superbly "Chiara al pari", accomplishing very technically difficult note transitions, and doing so magnificently on the ornamentation of the da capo section. She is again very amazing in La Griselda, another Vivaldi Opera.

Jennifer Larmore's lung capacity and jet-propulsion speed are phenomenal and super-human in "Andero, chiamero, dal profondo". If I ever thought that "Andero, volero, gridero" from Orlando Finto Pazzo required high octanage to be sung, Larmore proves that she's got the turbo power in her throat, and vocal pyrotechnics to command the explosive high note at the end of the run.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Highlights Set Taken from the Complete Recording of 'Orlando Furioso', plus Extras Nov. 17 2008
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This 2CD set is a combination of a one-CD highlights disc taken from the 3CD complete recording of Vivaldi's 'Orlando Furioso' released a couple of years ago. I wrote a rave review of that set and append it here. The second disc contains extracts from a number of recordings in the Naïve label's outstanding series of Vivaldi performances, including things from Griselda, La verità in cimento, Griselda (a real treasure, that), and the Stabat Mater. Also included is a recorder concerto subtitled 'La Notte' played beautifully by Sébastien Marq.

My earlier review of 'Orlando Furioso':

This review cannot be definitive as I am far from being an expert on Baroque opera. But I have long loved the recording of this opera, 'Orlando Furioso,' made many years ago, but drastically cut, by Claudio Scimone with the Solisti Veneti and featuring the almost superhuman singing of Marilyn Horne as Orlando. Add to that the Angelica of Victoria de los Angeles, Lucia Valentini-Terrani as Alcina, and Sesto Bruscantini as Ruggiero and you have a nigh-unbeatable combination. But this set not only gives us an uncut version of Vivaldi's opera (with some additions suggested by musicologist Frédéric Delaméa, additions which fill in gaps in the original materials from which this performance was produced), it features, amazingly, voices that are fully the equal of those in the fabled Scimone recording. Some roles have been re-assigned: Ruggiero is sung by a counter-tenor here (as opposed to Bruscantini's baritone); Medoro is sung by a mezzo, rather than a tenor.

One quibble I have about the Horne performance is that she made the role of Orlando, with all its vocal gymnastics, almost a caricature (forgive me, Horne fans! I'm one, too, after all). In the present recording Canadian mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux not only sings as well as Horne, but limns the character with greater sensitivity. Her ornamentation is not quite as spectacular, but it's also not as, how shall I say?, show-offy. And the ornaments are more in keeping with practice of 1727 when the opera was premièred, I believe. Lemieux is fully capable of Horne's acrobatics, so it's not a matter of lack of technique, it's more a matter of (gasp!) taste. A larger question arises about the replacement of the role of Ruggiero sung by a baritone (Bruscantini) with a counter-tenor (the sweet-voiced Philippe Jarrousky). In fact, though, at the first performance Ruggiero was sung by a mezzo who specialized in pants roles, so perhaps using a counter-tenor is more appropriate. In any event, Jarrousky is superb, bringing an appropriate delicacy to the role. Angelica, sung ravishingly by the Argentine soprano Veronica Cangemi, does not make us forget the late, beloved Victoria de los Angeles, but her performance does not suffer in comparison either. Jennifer Larmore has a complete triumph in her performance of Alcina which is, I feel, actually superior to that of Valentini-Terrani.

Instrumental support by Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his Ensemble Matheus is lively, sensitive and brilliant. Special mention must be made of the lovely flute obbligato in Ruggiero's aria, 'Sol da te, mio dolce amore,' played radiantly by Jean-Marc Goujon. Supporting roles are also well sung, in some instances better than on the Scimone set. I think this set heralds the real arrival of Marie-Nicole Lemieux on the international scene, at least on records. She has made some wonderful CDs, mostly on smaller labels; I raved about her recording with Tafelmusik on Analekta but was less taken with her Brahms lieder recital on the same label. I suspect this recording will bring her appropriate acclaim.

Strongly recommended for lovers of superb singing.

Scott Morrison

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