Arias for Domenico Annibali
Domenico Annibali (c1705-c1779) was employed at the Dresden court opera from 1730 until his retirement in 1764 – but from time to time he was given leave of absence to appear in Rome (in 1732 and 1739) and London (1736 37). Eleven arias from his repertoire are explored in a cleverly varied recital by Flavio Ferri-Benedetti (an alumnus of the Schola Cantorum in Basel) that helps us to see the bigger picture.
The graceful ‘Bellezze adorate’ from Ristori’s Le fate (Dresden, 1736) is sung with eloquent tastefulness, whereas Alexander the Great’s ‘Cervo al bosco’ from Hasse’s Cleofide (Dresden, 1731) has florid singing that is both precise and shaded poetically – and Olivier Picon’s brilliant horn obbligato and Ori Harmelin’s nimble theorbo flourishes are reminders that the Dresden court orchestra was without equal in Europe. Il Basilico’s strings are virile in the title-role’s flamboyant description of a furious whirlwind in Porpora’s Germanico in Germania (Rome, 1732), which is contrasted immediately with Handel’s sublime depiction of Arminio’s tender farewell to his beloved as he anticipates his execution by Roman invaders (‘Vado a morir’); Ferri-Benedetti’s softly emotive messa di voce and elegant embellishments are delightful.
Less immediately convincing is some extravagant ornamentation descending deep into the baritone register in Feo’s ‘Quel nocchier che vana ogn’opra’ from Andromaca (Rome, 1730). The concluding set-piece ‘A vostro dispetto’ from Ristori’s Componimento per musica (Warsaw, 1736) is a thrilling tour de force – although the cadenza finishes up the octave in a manner that I personally find a bit clumsy (others may find it energetic). Nevertheless, this diligent exploration of mostly unfamiliar music is an auspicious debut from these talented performers.