Opera Arias & Cantatas Import
The rich-voiced Alaskan mezzo Viovica Genaux's new CD is as dazzling as her Arias for Farinelli disc that appeared a while ago. Here she sings music of Hasse and Handel, two German composers who wrote in what, for the sake of creating an umbrella, can be called perfect pre-Italian bel canto style. Genaux sings two selections from Handel's Orlando---one wild with coloratura and the other the eponymous hero's moody, difficult mad scene---one from Alcina, and a cantata dating from 1711 that features fine writing for recorders. The lesser-known Hasse is represented by three arias from his opera Arminio and a cantata. Genaux leaps every hurdle the composers put in her way---seemingly endless runs, two-octave leaps, trills. Indeed, one is reminded more than once of Marilyn Horne, although Genaux's voice is prettier and not as grand. She can spin a long, quiet line with grace and breath to spare as well. Genaux's sound, like that of all great singers, is unique--in her case, her tone has a milky smoothness that sets her apart. This CD is for all admirers of truly great singing, and the rarities in the program give it extra value. Bernard Labadie leads the French-Canadian group Les Violons du Roy in performances that are rhythmically razor-sharp and thoroughly alive. --Robert Levine
To illustrate, I'll summarize what I heard from several of the cuts on this CD.
From Handel's "Orlando." First, "Fammi combattere mostri e tifei." Genaux demonstrates absolutely glorious coloratura technique here. She reveals a smooth, creamy mezzo voice, very agile. Her florid singing is solid and more than that in this fast paced aria. This is great fun if you enjoy florid singing. She demonstrates nice trill technique, too. She does not have a huge voice, but it is rich and nimble.
Another piece from "Orlando" is "Ah! Stigie larve. . .Vaghe pupille." There is an interesting instrumental opening. Then, Genaux's voice. The opening is rather slow in tempo, but serves as a vehicle to demonstrate her rich voice in non-florid singing technique. And she shows some dramatic presence, as far as I can tell.
With "Vaghe pupille," she begins to deploy embellishments, thought the pace remains somewhat mannered. Trills are fine (I regret that so few contemporary singers who take on the coloratura repertoire are unable to trill, but that's just me). The final segment picks up the pace. More florid singing., attractively done.
Hasse's "Arminio." One work from this opera, "Ti lascio in ceppi avvinto." Genaux starts off with a well executed trill. She shows considerable vocal range, from dusky lower notes to smoothly sung higher notes. Much of the opening segment is at a rather slow pace, but it is nonetheless captivatingly sung. Genaux's voice is extremely nimble, able to negotiate well the challenges of this work. Another aria from this opera is "Se mia speranza sola." The latter half of this piece is quite animated in pace. Genaux deploys her coloratura technique very ably, with trills galore, runs, appoggiaturas, and other embellishments. Just terrific singing. She ranges from darker lower notes to shimmering higher notes toward the close. Very satisfying to listen to.
This is the third CD of Genaux's that I have had the opportunity to listen to. I find her art absolutely compelling, and look forward listening to more of her work in the future. Highly recommended for those interested in mezzo sopranos attempting bel canto works.
Genaux's timbre has darkened a bit over her career. She is now a rich "manly" mezzo-soprano ( I mean that as praise) with a surprising clarino upper range in reserve. A voice like lustrous mahogany. Recital CDs are a major portion of every singer's marketing strategy these days; I usually prefer to hear such arias and recitativos in the context of the full operas, and I often find CDs such as this one "too much of a good thing". This time, however, as Mozart told the Emperor, there are just enough notes, not a note too many.
A side comment: Most 18th C opera lovers would have no hesitation in declaring that Handel was a 'better' composer than Johann Adolf Hasse. I've been adding a tiny bit of late to the rehabilitation of Hasse, but I'm obliged to say that the selections on this CD from handel's operas Orlando and Alcina are indisputably more 'exciting' than those from Hasse's Arminio and La Scusa. But there are no generalities to be drawn from this incidental comparison.
This CD belongs on the oft-visited shelf of my collection, alongside favorite recitals by Simone Kermes Colori D'amore, Philippe Jaroussky J.C. Bach: La Dolce Fiamma- Forgotten castrato arias, Sara Mingardo, Sara Mingardo-Vocal Music, Sandrine Piau Sandrine Piau - Handel Opera Seria, and Jill Feldman Pianger Di Dolcezza .
Her love of early music, coupled with vocal artistry make this collection a treasure for any