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Full Operas - Released September 28, 2012 | Warner Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica
The opera libretto Artaserse (Artaxerxes) by Pietro Metastasio was the hit of the 18th century opera seria. It was set more than 40 times, including once in English (by Thomas Arne), and its popularity lasted into the 19th century. The opera by Leonardo Vinci recorded here, however, was the very first one, dating from 1730. It's easy to see even at this late date why Metastasio's libretto appealed to opera composers and operagoers so much. The story, concerning the Persian king Xerxes' son Artaxerxes I (based very loosely on actual events), features royal pomp, young love, betrayal, tragic self-sacrifice, and, to top it all off, a happy ending. Musically the opera is odd by present-day standards; it called for an all-male cast, women being banned from Roman theaters at the time. The cast consisted of five castrati, sung here by countertenors, and one tenor, the villain Artabano. It's a big work, with sober processionals and spectacular arias for almost all the characters. French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky has never been in better voice, but the performance is equally notable for introducing some lesser-known countertenors, such as the creamy-voiced Valer Barna-Sabadus as Semira, Artaserse's frustrated lover. It's not until now, as a matter of fact, that a critical mass of countertenors has been available to perform music of this difficulty, and the results are worth hearing on several levels. Slowly but surely, the history of opera in the 18th century is being rewritten.
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Decca

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio
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Violin Concertos - Released March 2, 2009 | naïve classique

Booklet

Sacred Oratorios - Released November 7, 2006 | Arts Productions Ltd

Theatre Music - Released April 1, 2006 | Chandos Records

Booklet

Concertos - Released February 1, 2004 | Chandos Records

Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 1, 2004 | Chandos Records

Booklet

Concertos - Released February 26, 2007 | Arts Productions Ltd

Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | CPO

Giovanni Paisiello, whose works Mozart thought enough of to study closely, was mostly forgotten in the nineteenth century, and this Passione de Gesù Cristo remained buried until 1998. This is its second recording; a Polish version on the Arts label, from that year, is also available. The oratorio's text is by the preeminent operatic librettist of the eighteenth century, Pietro Metastasio. One can easily understand why the work has never had a critical mass of general listeners, but for those interested in Mozart's world it's truly fascinating. This passion story features neither Jesus nor Pontius Pilate, nor any of the other usual personages. Instead it takes place after Christ's crucifixion, recounted by St. John, Joseph of Arimatea, and Mary Magdalene (in surely her biggest part until Jesus Christ Superstar came along) to St. Peter, with the accompaniment of a chorus of Christ's other followers; in the second part, all bewail the corruption of Jerusalem and look forward to Christ's resurrection. This setup does more than provide the opportunity for operatic grief, although there is plenty of that. Metastasio's libretto was set by various composers, including Salieri and Niccolò Jommelli, whose version was probably even more vocally flashy than Paisiello's own. But even with Paisiello, the music is either unsatisfactory or instructive, depending on your point of view, in that it has none of the concessions to the traditions of sacred style found in Mozart (with the restrictions he faced in Salzburg and the later contrapuntal tendencies of his music) or Haydn (over whom loomed Handel's example). It is pure opera. Sample Mary Magdalene's aria "Vorrei dirti il mio dolore" (I would tell you of my pain), CD 1, track 8, to get an idea of what you are getting into as a buyer here. But it is not just the operatic style that makes the work intriguing -- it is Metastasio's conception and Paisiello's response to it. The hearer of this work is experiencing the Passion story in a secondhand way that tells you a lot about the late eighteenth century and its peculiar brand of faith, which was formalized, compartmentalized, and aestheticized. The performances here are among the best in CPO's catalog, and Swiss conductor Diego Fasolis, best-known for his Bach recordings, makes the transition to Classical-period music more easily than many other Baroque-oriented musicians, and those who have not yet had the chance to hear his frequent collaborator, soprano Roberta Invernizzi, should take this chance to do so -- she is heard in the role of Peter, for a SATB solo configuration. Surely this rather curious work is not an essential possession, but this is a fine recording that helps bring the world of the late eighteenth century alive.

Classical - Released November 13, 2015 | Believe Digital Germany

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Full Operas - Released October 30, 2015 | Glossa

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Sacred Oratorios - Released January 1, 2008 | CPO

Cantatas (secular) - Released May 1, 2000 | Chandos Records

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