Cecilia Bartoli: Opera Proibita – Arias by HANDEL, SCARLATTI, and CALDARA – Les Musiciens du Louvre / Marc Minkowski – Decca

by | Nov 14, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Cecilia Bartoli: Opera Proibita – Arias by HANDEL, SCARLATTI,
and CALDARA  – Les Musiciens du Louvre / Marc Minkowski – Decca
B0005151-02 ***:

In the first decade of the eighteenth century, the Catholic Church
forbade public performances in Rome. However, this did not put a stop
to oratorios and to private performances in the homes of wealthy
patrons. This CD contains 15 arias from operas composed during that
period, hence its title: Prohibited Opera.

This CD comes with ample liner notes, plus the lyrics and their
translations. The ubiquitous mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli infuses the
two-hundred-year-old music with a modern sensibility, instilling in the
pieces more feeling and affect than they were probably meant to carry.
Nevertheless, we are in secure hands here. Bartoli is utterly reliable,
sporting perfect intonation, delicious tempi, and a great deal of
enthusiasm. As is her wont, she sings with a tightly wound, almost
manic effervescence. In Handel’s “Beauty’s Aria,” the speed of her
coloratura is utterly fantastic. And in Caldara’s “Flavia’s Aria,” this
marvel of nature self-righteously tosses the fiery notes with
astonishing speed, like a flame thrower. In Scarlatti’s “Hope’s Aria,”
her pace is slow and compelling, with terrific legatos. The orchestra,
conducted by Minkowski, keeps up with her quite comfortably, and in
Scarlatti’s “Charity’s Recitative and Aria,” her duets with the
instruments are lovely. All in all, though, there is too much showiness
and calculated affect for this CD to be much more than an entertaining
“feu d’artifice.”

– Dalia Geffen


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