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Simone Kermes: "Lava - Opera Arias from 18th Century Napoli"

  During this week from the 29th of November to 5th of December, at 12:00 AM and 12:00 PM (Madrid Time), you can listen to excerpts from the album of Simone Kermes "Lava".

Simone Kermes
"Lava - Opera Arias from 18th Century Napoli"



 Review from www.opera-britannia.com/


  Having been bombarded by CD recitals of recycled Handel arias by every soprano under the sun, it is very refreshing to discover this adventurous recital of mostly unknown repertoire dedicated to the masters of the Neapolitan opera scene of the early part of the 18th century: Pergolesi, Porpora, Vinci, Leo and Hasse. The ensemble consists of a string quartet, augmented in a few arias by two oboes and two horns. Considering the undramatic sound of many of Alan Curtis’s recordings (Ferdinando in particular) which enjoy larger instrumental forces, it is astounding to hear the vibrancy, accuracy and pure joy such a small ensemble can achieve on this CD. The ensemble founded by Claudio Oselle is comprised of highly capable soloists and teachers from the early music scene. The programme is based on a recital Simone Kermes sang in the 2008 Schwetzingen Festival with Le Nuove Musiche and five of the twelve arias have made it on to this disc; a great loss from this concert series is the ‘Ombra cara’ from Hasse’s Didone.

1. ‘Tu da me dividi’- Giovanni Battista Pergolesi L’Olimpiade (Rome, 1735)
In Act 2 Scene 11 having discovered Licida’s deceit, Aristea denounces Licida in a blistering aria parlante that commences without an instrumental introduction. The playing of the ensemble in this aria is particularly rhythmic and they imbibe their interpretation with interesting musical ideas always leading up to and underlining important words like barbaro ("barbarian") and m’uccidi ("you kill me"). From Kermes one finds her usual commitment to the drama and text. Her wispy and at times hollow sounding high notes, combined with her gutsy use of chested low notes, contribute to the intensity of Aristea’s anger. A cadenza and some decorations are presented in the da capo which effectively underline the emotions of this aria.

2. ‘Morte Amara’ – Nicola Porpora Lucio Papirio (Venice, 1737)
This aria bears all the hallmarks of the renowned Porpora training: messa di voce, intricate trills, coloratura and most importantly a technique grounded in even and disciplined breath control. ‘Morte amara’ begins with a messa di voce and it is in my opinion one of the most beautiful arias of the 18th century. This is the type of aria that is unique to the Neapolitan school, which incidentally is excellently mimicked by Vivaldi in Griselda for Ottone’s ‘Vede orgogliosa’. This is truly a testament to Porpora’s lyric gift as a composer to write for singers who were able to spin endless lines of legato and it becomes a natural forerunner to the bel canto of Bellini and Donizetti. Kermes’s singing in this aria is simply ravishing and it alone is worth the price of this disc. Attention is paid to every note, carefully sculpting it, producing a hypnotising effect in a wonderful arch of legato. With this rapturous performance Kermes gives a lesson in superlative musicianship, technical control and interpretation to all singers.

3. ‘Se non dovesse’ – Nicola Porpora Flavio Anicio Olibrio (Rome, 1722)
Zeno’s libretto Flavio Anicio Olibrio is based on a later episode in Ricimero’s life. ‘Se non dovesse’ was likely inserted into the first run of the opera in 1722; the character who sings this delightful aria is unknown. It certainly is an interesting aria with a simple, yet effective melody, orchestrated for pizzicato (plucked) strings; in the B section strings are bowed at times. Furthermore, it sounds like the harpsichord in this recording is using the lute stop – a stop which did not exist at the time for this instrument. The simplicity of this aria makes a very nice contrast to the previous ‘Morte amara’, which precedes it, and the frenetic ‘Fra cento’, which follows it. In the translation for the second verse leaves out the last two words: ‘non so’ (‘does not know’). The aria is very tastefully decorated in line with the Affekt expressing a lover’s reluctance at being forcefully parted from their lover.

4. ‘Fra cento’ – Leonardo Vinci Artaserse (Rome, 1730)
Kermes’ use of hollow sounding low notes in this aria would have scandalised the conservative celebrated singing teacher of the 18th century, Pier Francesco Tosi. However the excitement caused by her use of martelli is thrilling. The upper strings use slurred bowing and I can’t think that it is the best phrasing to use to underline the Affekt. Kermes also uses non-legato phrasing and it is not completely successful in my opinion. Even though it is an exciting performance I don’t think her interpretation is fitting, and she does not convince me of Arbace’s desperation and anguish. Despite these reservations I consider this the most exciting aria and interpretation on this disc.

5. ‘Manca sollecito’ – Leonardo Leo Demetrio (Torremaggiore, 1735)
Leo was a versatile and technically accomplished composer but he lacked both the genius of Pergolesi and the facility of Vinci and Hasse - a guard once had to be posted outside his door to force him to finish an opera. Cleonice has become queen of Syria and is pressured into naming a consort. She wants to choose the commoner Alceste/Demetrio, as they have fallen in love. She confides her desperation to her confidants Finicio and Barsene. Nothing is known about the singer who sang this version of ‘Manca’. In comparison to the version for the castrato Elisi for Rome (1742) this version of ‘Manca’ is shorter and more simple with fewer leaps in the melody, but every single bit as effective in conveying Cleonice’s despair. Marked senza cembalo (without harpsichord) and only having the lute in the A section, the helplessness of Cleonice is movingly portrayed. The slow section gives way to a frenetic B section. Kermes sings this aria with a lot of sincerity and captures Cleonice’s dilemma at the loss of Demetrio. And like ‘Tu da me dividi’ Kermes is at her most effective when singing arias for female characters. This may seem a strange thing to say, but she never quite convinces me like Bartoli that she is a man in the other arias on this disc.

6. ‘Come nave’ - Johann Adolf Hasse Viriate (Venice, 1739)
Originally titled Siface, this versi

Posted on 2010-11-29 11:19:22.387