Ladies First! = HAYDN: Scena di Berenice Hob. XXIVa:10; Armida Hob. XXIVa:10; L’anima del filosofo Hob. XXVIII:13; L’anima del filosofo Hob. XXVIII:13; L’anima del filosofo Hob. XXVIII:13; Arianna a Naxos Hob. XXVIb:2; L’isola disabitata Hob. XXVIII:9; L’isola disabitata Hob. XXVIII:9; L’infedelta delusa Hob. XXVIII:5; La Methilde Ritrovata Hob. XXXIVb:3; L’infedelta delusa Hob. XXVIII:5 – Lisa Larsson, sop./ Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/ Jan Willem de Vriend – Challenge Classics multichannel SACD CC72622, 63:08 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
Lisa Larsson is a very up-and-coming Swedish soprano—some might say she is already there—who is garnering increasing attention in the opera world. Though she started her career as a flute player—and a successful one—her voice ultimately won out as the musical weapon of choice, for the good of all of us and she is rapidly becoming one of the leading sopranos in the world. For this album she has chosen, gratefully, to concentrate on the operas of Haydn.
Haydn of course doesn’t have anywhere near the operatic reputation of Mozart, who practically owns the genre of the classical era, though this wasn’t always true. History, however fairly or unfairly, has made that judgment, but Haydn has a lot to say and Larsson makes sure we get the message. His Esterhazy years (1761-90) included the writing of numerous singspiels, Italian operas and comedies, and he supervised over 150 performances a year because of his duties as Kapellmeister. So all in all he was very familiar with all aspects of musical theater production. His scores for this setting were necessarily location-specific, meaning that he wrote for the forces at hand, and sometimes this meant a variable quality of singer. But Haydn was quite attuned to the dramatic requirements of everything he wrote—most often done as “occasional” pieces of specific events—and composed a large variety of music that is often stunning in its effectual beauties, and lots of it immersed in the strum und drang of the period. His concert arias and dramatic scenes were even more sparkling after he was released from Esterhazy and began his London sojourns.
Larsson loves this music, and it’s easy to hear this. Her inflection and phrasing are top notch, while the tonal allure she provides is tremendous. Conductor De Vriend is infectious in his accompaniment, with every piece full of energy and passion. The surround sound is gently ghosted in the back speakers, and everything is clear as a bell. It’s nice to have this kind of release available.