VIVALDI Opera Arias
‘A journey of love, fear, rage and despair’, proclaims Fabio Bonizzoni, with no hyperbole. Once or twice – say, in an aria from Orlando finto pazzo, complete with avian twitterings – we hear Vivaldi in amorous pastoral mode. Far more often these arias present their grieving or defiant heroes and heroines in extremis. Metaphorical ‘storm’ arias were a particular speciality of the highly strung, hyperactive Vivaldi. Roberta Invernizzi, perhaps the most exciting Italian Baroque soprano today, chooses three of the most flamboyant and dazzles with her coruscating yet perfectly controlled coloratura. In ‘Fra le procelle’ from Tito Manlio (an opera Vivaldi claimed to have whipped up in five days flat), she effortlessly negotiates the vertiginous shifts between registers, while in ‘Dopo un’orrida procella’, with its roistering horns, she matches Cecilia Bartoli’s vocal and verbal energy (on her Decca ‘Vivaldi Album’, 11/99) without recourse to Bartoli’s trademark cooing whispers and chesty gulps. La Risonanza, pounding, strumming continuo to the fore, match Invernizzi all the way in flair and theatrical intensity.
While there is visceral excitement aplenty here, the best music, as so often in Vivaldi’s operas, comes in the more introspective numbers. With flutey top notes and an expressive, selective use of vibrato, Invernizzi poignantly conveys Caio’s mingled courage and anxiety in an aria from Ottone in villa. She entwines rapturously with solo violin as Lucio pleads for pity in Tito Manlio, and finds a blanched, traumatised tone for Costanza’s entreaty to the shades in Griselda. She can be blithe too, cajoling her way through reams of skittering triplets in a delightful minuet aria from Giustino. Most memorable of all, perhaps, is Invernizzi’s grace and lulling tenderness in an aria from Catone in Utica, cushioned by the exquisite – and exquisitely realised – sonority of muted violins and pizzicato violas. In sum, another winner for La Risonanza and a triumph for Invernizzi.