Sunhae Im: Orfeo(s)
Sunhae Im, the Korean soprano familiar from her contributions to René Jacobs’s recordings of Mozart operas, here turns to concert pieces from earlier in the 18th century, all on the subject of Orpheus and the loss of Eurydice. Scarlatti and Pergolesi were active in Naples. Pergolesi’s Orfeo consists of two da capo arias, preceded respectively by an accompanied and a secco recitative. ‘Euridice, e dove sei?’, with its flowing introduction from the strings, is a cheerful number in the galant style: Sunhae Im avoids triviality by investing her phrases with an appropriate urgency. ‘O d’Euridice’ makes its effect with a fast opening followed by a dramatic pause and a slower tempo.
The other three cantatas make use of a narrator to complement Orpheus’s direct speech. In Clérambault’s Orphée, the ‘faithful echoes of the woods’ are represented by the soft flute of Christoph Huntgeburth. When Orpheus refers to himself as ‘the son of the God of Day’, the accompaniment is light, the bass instruments silent. This air, the third of four, ends with a moving, twofold reprise of the phrase where he begs Pluto to restore Eurydice to him. Scarlatti’s L’Orfeo is significantly different in style from the Pergolesi piece: there’s a fierce, dotted introduction from the instruments, and the first aria includes suspensions and, not unexpectedly, Neapolitan sixth cadences. Sunhae Im sings ‘Sordo il tronco’, the central aria, in a beautiful mezza voce. Rameau’s Orphée brings back the flute, and also Bernhard Forck’s violin. The playing, mostly one-to-a-part, is exquisite; so is the singing.