A Tribute to Faustina Bordoni
Faustina Bordoni was one half of Handel’s so-called ‘Rival Queens’ for just under three seasons (172628), and in 1730 she married Hasse in Venice – so Vivica Genaux’s recital of arias for Faustina by Handel and Hasse is such an obviously sensible idea that it’s amazing it hasn’t been done before. Quantz praised Faustina’s immaculate articulation and excellent trills – and Genaux lives up to that vocal artistry brilliantly with the copious trills and arching melodic phrases in the long but lovely ‘Piange quel fonte’ from Hasse’s Numa Pompilio. Hasse gets the lion’s share and the recital concludes with the elderly husband’s touching tribute to his wife composed after her death in 1781, ‘Ah! Che mancar mi sento’. Handel’s best dramatic creations for Faustina are not chosen and there are manifold deficiencies in the booklet-notes. The florid ‘Parmi che giunta in porto’ is not from Handel’s 1720 Radamisto, as the track-listing states, but is a bona fide rarity composed for Faustina in the 1727 revival of Floridante (later used in the 1728 revival of Radamisto). Cappella Gabetta accompany with considerable warmth and judicious elegance, and their horns have a great time in the splendid overture to Hasse’s Didone abbandonata. I cannot remember enjoying Genaux’s singing more than this.
Roberta Invernizzi digs deeply and less predictably into unfamiliar repertoire performed by Faustina during numerous successful engagements at Naples between 1721 and 1732; there are also a few arias by Neapolitan composers she performed at Parma and Turin. I Turchini’s recorders dulcetly evoke a nightingale in ‘Canta e dì caro usignolo’ from Mancini’s Traiano, and Invernizzi’s beautiful slow singing and the sensitive string band are breathtaking in the siciliano ‘Un guardo solo ancor’ from Vinci’s Il trionfo di Camilla. There is only an extract from Vinci’s Parto ma con qual core, written for Faustina to bid farewell to her Naples audience in 1723. Glossa’s volume launches an ambitious new series entitled ‘Sirens’, exploring the musical journeys of celebrated Baroque singers; the booklet contains an essay, illustrations and even a comprehensive chronology of Faustina’s entire career. The conceptual scope, repertoire and integrity of documentation for Invernizzi’s intelligent recital and Genaux’s affectionate tribute are chalk and cheese – but both are musically indispensable.