Cecilia Bartoli - The Vivaldi Album
As composer, director and entrepreneur, Vivaldi was responsible for no fewer than 90 operas. Twenty have survived, yet only one has been published. So it was doubtless with alacrity that Cecilia Bartoli set out on her detective work in the vaults of the Turin National Library. The South Bank Show has already (in October) followed her fortunes there: now we listen to the results of the excavation and editing of these larger-than-life extracts from nine of Vivaldi's operas.
There is a frisson of surprise from the start: the Arnold Schoenberg Choir frolics in as the nymphs and shepherds from Dorilla in Tempe, encouraging Bartoli to celebrate a 'Spring' which has a decided fragrance of deja vu. And the chilliest of the Four Seasons appears further into the recital as 'Gelido in ogni vena' from Farnace, revealing Bartoli's voice numbed with grief, gliding over those icy orchestral chords.
There is also a degree of bewilderment. Coarse-voiced period brass instruments herald Bartoli's riding of some particularly squally waves as tempest racks land and heart in 'Dopo un'orrida procella' from Griselda. The aria unleashes Bartoli's famous breathy, whispered coloratura, her flaming top register, and an enclosed, hollow chest-voice which seems to belong to neither of the other two. Frequently (and notably in 'Anch'il mar' and 'Zeffiretti, che sussurrate') her admirable variety of vocal timbres and colours is offset by bumpy integration of registers. In other words, interpretative will and technical means are not always the equal of each other.
But Bartoli tackles her discoveries with infectious glee, enjoying too the beguiling instrumental palette of Il Giardino Armonico, whose pair of flageolets, duetting over muted violins and pizzicato violas and cellos, calm the torments of love in 'Di due rai'.'