Arias from the 18th-century Russian court
Karina Gauvin, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Alexander Weimann
ATMA Classique ACD 22791. 57’04
This recording (Nuits Blanches = White Nights) explores, in theory, music from the Russian Court in the 18th-century. The “in theory” bit is because there is very little music on the CD that was directly associated with the Russian Court, although there is certainly evidence of music that would have fitted the title rather better. With the exception of Christoph Willibald Gluck (whose presence on this disc is the weakest link to the title), the composers are unlikely to be known to anyone but the most dedicated follower of Russian musical fashion. Continue reading
Les Talens Lyrique, Choeur de chambre de Namur, Christophe Rousset
Aparte AP135. 2CDs. 75’+74′
In sharp contrast to the pared down version of Lully’s Armide I reviewed here, this CD is the real thing, in a stunning performance by Les Talens Lyrique under Christophe Rousset, with a fine cast of soloists and the Choeur de chambre de Namur in support. It is a live recording of a concert given in the Grande Salle Pierre Boulez of the Philharmonie de Paris in December 2015, although there is no evidence of an audience or other extraneous noises that I could hear. Continue reading
Ensemble OrQuesta Baroque
Grimeborn. Arcola Theatre. 9 August 2017
As the deliberately chosen name suggests, Grimeborn is not Glyndebourne, its location in the Arcola Theatre, a converted textile factory in Dalston, East London, being just one of the differences. Founded in 2007, the Grimborn opera festival focuses on new operas and experimental productions of more established repertoire. The limited space and budget in comparison to its more glamorous inspiration is one of its main strengths, as it forces directors, singers and instrumentalists to rethink basic opera practice. One key factor for the singers is that, rather like the more glamorous Iford Opera season, the singers are performing within a few feet of the audience, sitting on three sides of the central stage area. Continue reading
Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik
20-24 August 2015
The annual Innsbruck Festival of Early Music runs for the last 3 weeks of August (14-28) and includes amongst its many events the Cesti international baroque opera singing competition (reviewed separately) and an opera cast from finalists of the previous year’s Cesti competition. This year I was only able to be in Innsbruck for four days (20-24 August) rather than my usual week, so missed some of the potential highlights, including Porpora’s opera Il Germanica and a recital on the rarely heard little 1580 Italian organ in the Silberne Kapelle of the Hofkirche. The theme of the festival was “Stylus phantasticus” but, as in previous years, this was rather loosely interpreted.
The festival opened (for me) in one of the many architectural delights of Innsbruck, the Schloss Ambras (a Hapsburg stronghold since the 1300s) and, in particular, the spectacular Renaissance Spanischer Saal, built for Archduke Ferdinand II around 1570. Niccolo Jommelli’s intermezzo Don Trastullo was originally intended to be performed in two halves between the acts of an opera – making for a long evening. Like others of its kind, it is a light comedy. With just three characters (and a large box from or into which they occasionally popped), the story tells of the elderly Don who is deceived by a flirtatious young woman Arsenia. The actual relationship between them is unclear, but he clearly has taken a shine to her. She leads him on, whilst secretly planing to hoodwink him and make off with his money and her actual lover, an alleged Baron, Giambarone. For this performance, the three characters were sung by soprano Robin Johannsen, bass Federico Sacchi and tenor Franscesco Castoro, with direction from Christoph von Bernuth. The orchestra was the ten-strong Academia Montis Regalis, conducted from the harpsichord by the festival director Alessandro De Marchi.