The balmy lagoon of Venice is a long way from the chill waters of America’s most northern state, but Alaska-born mezzo soprano Vivica Genaux now lives near La Serenissima, and Antonio Vivaldi, the city’s emblematic composer, figures prominently in her repertoire. This album of Vivaldi arias features numbers from a dozen or so operas and includes five arias receiving their first recording.
Describing Vivica Genaux in her trademark virtuoso repertoire, The New York Times observed that: “Her voice is as striking as her looks: less striking, even, for the light, free upper notes or rich chocolaty lower ones than for the runs of coloratura that she releases with jackhammer speed, gunfire precision and the limpid continuity of spring raindrops.”
Genaux herself says that: “In Baroque music, what I really like is the interaction between the voice and the orchestra. The orchestra doesn’t just accompany but punctuates what you are saying as a singer, so you have the opportunity of really working closely with the instrumentalists. There are plenty of pyrotechnics in this recital, but in the sense of using ornamentation to amplify the emotion – so there is rapid coloratura and more delicate ornamentation too. I love working with Europa Galante, and Fabio, being a violinist as well as a conductor, understands that a singer can’t just go on forever on one breath – just as a violinist is limited by the length of his bow.”
The Vivaldi expert Frédéric Delamea takes up this theme:
‘Famed as a virtuoso violinist, Vivaldi divided his artistic life between composing concertos for his preferred instrument and writing operas. It should therefore come as no surprise that in his stage works he shows a predilection for vocal pyrotechnics, playing the voice and singer like a human violin. Even in the glory days of the castrati, however, he avoided falling into the trap of reducing singing to mere exhibitionist acrobatics. Throughout his career, he took up the pyrotechnic challenge with finesse, deploying an unrivalled variety of expression and wrapping up the display in a refined orchestral setting that draws direct inspiration from his concertos while also responding to the demands of the drama. The dazzling arias in this programme – some of which have never been recorded or, indeed, performed in concert – illustrate the different phases and forms of Vivaldian pyrotechnics, exploring every emotion and the most diverse dramatic situations, and continually varying instrumentation, tonality and tempo. The composer of the Four Seasons, flamboyant as ever, sets his unique operatic stamp.’