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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
  • Conductor: Jeanne Lamon
  • Audio CD (Sept. 21 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: CBC Records
  • ASIN: B000641ZEK
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,041 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa52c4aec) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5694240) out of 5 stars 'She makes hungry where most she satisfies.' Dec 4 2004
By J Scott Morrison - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Isabel Bayrakdarian, a Canadian soprano not yet thirty, has turned the opera world on its head in the last few years. She is a woman of stunning physical beauty whose assured vocal technique, intelligence and stage presence have created admirers throughout the world. How fitting that she would record a program that comprises fourteen arias from four 'Cleopatra' operas (out of an estimated total of about seventy written on the subject of that legendary beauty). Bayrakdarian is possessed of a silvery coloratura with spot-on intonation, easy flexibility and varied coloration that perfectly fit the demands of the florid baroque arias presented here. What's more, most of these arias are not well known and there is not a clunker among them. The four operas represented are 'Cleopatre e Cesare' (Berlin, 1742) by Carl Heinrich Graun (c. 1703-1759), 'Marc'Antonio e Cleopatre' (Naples, 1725) by Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), 'Cleopatra' (Hamburg, 1704) by Johann Mattheson (1681-1764), and, best-known, 'Giulio Cesare in Egitto' (London, 1724) by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759).

Graun, Kapellmeister under Frederick the Great, wrote over twenty Italian operas for his patron's new opera house in Berlin. Of the three arias from the first of these presented on this disc, the most striking is the first, 'Tra la procelle assorto' ('In the midst of the tempest') in which Cleopatra responds to the fury of a thwarted suitor. Jeanne Lamon and her chamber orchestra, Tafelmusik, provide appropriately agitated string figurations to support Cleopatra's stern but philosophical rebuff, voiced in roulades of coruscating fioriture.

Hasse, who started out as a tenor, studied in Italy and composed his Cleopatra opera while there. The name role in his 'Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra' was sung by the celebrated castrato Farinelli, and strangely, the role of Marc Antony was sung by a female mezzo! The opera ends with Cleopatra's plaintive song of resignation at her suicide along with her lover, Antony, after their defeat at Alexandria at the hands of the Roman emperor Octavian. Bayrakdarian catches the sadness and resoluteness of the Egyptian queen.

Mattheson, like Hasse, was also as much a singer as a composer and he was the undisputed king of opera in his native Hamburg. He sang Marc Antony in his own Cleopatra opera (subtitled 'The Unlucky Queen of Egypt'). Unlike the other operas here, his Cleopatra sings in German. In her Act III aria 'Was ist der Liebe Brauch?' ('What is love's custom?), after learning of Antony's suicide, Cleopatra feigns compliance by telling the conquering Octavian she will marry him and accompany him to Rome. One can easily imagine this seductive aria convincing Octavian, and Bayrakdarian's tonal allure makes it all the more effective.

Easily the most familiar aria here is 'V'adoro pupille' from Handel's 'Julius Caesar.' It has been recorded many times by illustrious sopranos, including such luminaries as Beverly Sills and Joan Sutherland. In this aria Cleopatra, in the guise of 'Virtue' mounted on a throne, sings to Caesar 'I adore you, o eyes, the darts of love; your sparks sweetly pierce my breast.' It starts with a beguiling cavatina, has a brief restless middle section and then returns to the bewitching opening melody. Bayrakdarian sings it simply and intimately as if to be heard by only one listener, Caesar.

Obviously I have not written about the other arias included here, choosing instead to make a few remarks about an aria from each of the four operas represented. Be assured that similar artistry in Miss Bayrakdarian's singing is found throughout this 66 minute disc.

Strongly recommended.

Scott Morrison
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa56942b8) out of 5 stars Lyric or coloratura? The best of both worlds Jan. 20 2006
By Irene Rheinwald - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is probably one of the best voices of our generation: Isabel Bayrakdarian combines flawless technique, power and emotive ability to make for a remarkable listening experience. With great intelligence she dives into the meaning of each phrase and imbues it with nuanced sensitivity. She often sings at breakneck, punishing speed, but is never pulled along by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (under Jeanne Lamon); indeed, she commands at every turn. One almost fears she will skid off the page! I have heard versions of these pieces by other fine artists, but at a considerably slower pace, and without her discernment.

In attacking every beautifully shaped and defined note with gusto and perfect control, Ms. Bayrakdarian's interpretations are almost too lush and expressive for a Baroque repetoire, but who cares? She is alternately tender, breathless (hear the fluttering heartbeat when she sings "palpitar" in "Sento, Mio Dolce Amore"), loving, fiery, impassioned, and defiant. Her understanding of the material is clearly displayed. And even as her upper register is brilliant, bright and focussed, her lower range is quite dark toned and rich; the voice has lovely bloom.

If there is any criticism, it is that trills are not well defined when juxtaposed to her rapid, but subtle, vibrato. Not a big issue, however.

Strongly recommended, as are her other recordings.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa569475c) out of 5 stars Exciting Singing! Nov. 11 2006
By Erin Matthiessen - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful recital, drawing together as it does arias for Cleopatra from 4 different composers. And the last grouping, from Johann Matheson, have never been recorded before.

Bayrakdarian is a lovely young singer with a fresh voice and amazing technique. She charges in with her first aria, Tra le procelle assorte from Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare, singing at breakneck speed and daring, seemingly relishing every challenge the composer has placed in her way. Listening to it is a giddy experience.

She is obviously very confident of her skills, but she does smudge the coloratura in many of these selections, especially - and distressingly - in the Handel pieces. Her singing of of the two most famous arias for Cleopatra from Handel's Giulio Cesare is perhaps the only real disappointment for me in this disc. Perhaps because they are so well-known, and perhaps because my listening will always be haunted by the memory of Beverly Sills' seductive brilliance in the role, Bayrakdarian's singing here seems somewhat cautious and uninvolved.

Much better by far are the Mattheson numbers with which she finishes up. They are dramatic and unusual and Bayrakdarian, seemingly relishing the German language and the personality that language reveals in her, sings them with a passionate commitment and emotional nuance not heard in the previous selections.

Except for the Handel excerpts, this would have my highest recommendation. She is obviously ans exciting young singer who has the potential for a great career.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5694684) out of 5 stars A Soprano of Exceptional Beauty of Voice, Mind, and Body Jan. 6 2005
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Isabel Bayrakdarian. Note the name and watch a new star rise. This young soprano has it all right now - a voice that is agile, well supported over a very wide range, and technically as sophisticated as the best of her colleagues. To these attributes she adds physical beauty and an obvious intelligence that makes her a candidate for not only the opera stage, but also the more difficult recital hall.

Not many singers (with exceptions such as Upshaw, Graham, Hunt Lieberson for example) have the courage to confine a recording to a single topic, presenting a few works that are identifiable to the public, but introducing oddities from the repertoire that by any standards merit attention. Bayrakdarian sensitively chooses arias and songs based on the character of Cleopatra and in doing so offers an in depth study of one of histories more fascinating females. Yes, she does include 'Piangero' from Handel's "Giulio Cesare" and her interpretation is as elegant and beautifully sung as any on record. The excerpts by Graun and Hasse stand solidly well in execution and attention to vocal detail.

The collaboration is provided by Jeanne Lamon and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and is strong on interpretation and support of the soloist. This is an album to cherish as it likely will be one of many that this gifted young soprano will hopefully be creating. Grady Harp, January 2005
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa56947e0) out of 5 stars premiere aspect... Sept. 25 2011
By Rollo Tomassi - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
It never hurts to be pretty, does it? Going beyond Ms. Bayrakdarian's obvious visual advantages, however, the voice leaves me a bit less than enchanted. While she has wonderful speed and dexterity, Bayrakdarian's tone tends to get a little thin at the top. And she has a little too much vibrato for my enjoyment of baroque performance, though this may not bother many people. The voice seems to me well-suited for Rossini; I'd like to hear her Berlioz "Benvenuto Cellini" recording.

And the Cleopatra "concept" album approach here, while seemingly a good idea on the face of it, in the end doesn't add up to much. But it does provide the main reason to own this disc: the last section consists of excerpts from the Hamburg composer Johann Mattheson's "Cleopatra"--the first recording of anything from this opera. There's very little Mattheson (1681-1764) in the catalog, and given the quality of the arias presented here, there should be a lot more. Mattheson conveys the emotionalism of the Cleopatra character very well, and Bayrakdarian's performances of these pieces are the highlights of the recording. And her German pronunciation is pretty good, too.