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Classical opera arias

[I] "Arias for Nancy Storace"
Marie-Sophie Pollaka, Katharina Ruckgaberb, soprano
Accademia di Monaco
Dir: Joachim Tschiedel
rec: June 19 - 23, 2016, Pullach (D), Bürgerhaus
Coviello Classics - COV91715 (© 2017) (48'48")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Vicente MARTÍN Y SOLER (1754-1806): Il burbero di buon cuore (1786) (Son ancora tenerella)a; Una cosa rara (1786) (Dolce mi parve un di, cavatina)a; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791): Ch'io mi scordi di te?, aria (KV 505)ac; Le nozze di Figaro (KV 492) (1786) (Giunse alfin - Deh vieni, rec & aria)b; Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816): Il re Teodoro in Venezia (1784) (Infidel!)a; Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825): La grotta di Trofonio (1785) (D'un dolce amorb; Larala, duet); La scuola de' gelosi (1783) (Or ei con Ernestina - Sh sia giŕ, rec & rondň)a; Giuseppe SARTI (1729-1802): Fra i due litiganti (1783) (Ahimč - Non potro, rec & aria)b; Stephen STORACE (1762-1796): Gli equivoci (1786) (Che delirio - Ah come, rec & rondň)b

Antje Becker, Franziska Zajicek, transverse flute; Saskia Fikentscher, Marine-Amélie Lenoir, oboe; Vanessa Ramer, Marina Sonntag, clarinet; Lyndon Watts, Laura Miller, bassoon; Georg Köhler, Gregor Steidle, horn; Mary Utiger, Theona Gubba-Chkheidze, Yuna Lee, Mamrina Momeny, Kristina Kerestey, Nagi Uesugi, Monika Westner, violin; Seehyuon Chang, Zsombor Nemeth, viola; Laura Kneser, Sorin Munteanu, cello; Florian Schormair, double bass; Lauriane Follonier, fortepiano (soloc)

[II] Venanzio RAUZZINI (1746 - 1810): "Opera Arias and Scenes"
Meredith Halla, Stefanie Trueb, soprano
Capella Savariab
Dir: Mary Térey-Smith
rec: Sept 13 - 15, 2014, Szombáthely, Béla Bartók Concert Hall
Centaur - CRC 3416 (© 2016) (60'31")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

L'Eroe cinese, opera seria (1782) (Calma, bella Lisinga; Porgi o caro)ab; Le Ali d'amore, opera comica (1776) (Da cento affanni e cento; Del mio core i dolce affetti; Ah se perdo il caro bene)b; Piramo e Tisbe, a dramatic cantataab

From time to time discs are relased which are dedicated to the art of a singer of the 18th century. That makes much sense, as operas owed their success or failure in no small measure to the efforts of the interpreters. One of the greatest opera stars of the late 18th century was the English-born Nancy Storace, who enjoyed great success in Vienna from 1783 to 1787.

Nancy Storace was born the daughter of an Italian double bass player who had settled in England and also acted as a translator of Italian opera into English. She took singing lessons from Venanzio Rauzzini and performed at the stage before she was eight years old. Her operatic career started in Florence in 1779, and she then performed in Milan, Turin, Parma, Rome and Venice. Thanks to her fame she was engaged for the newly organized Italian opera in Vienna in 1783.

Composers queued up to make her participate in performances of their operas and were only too happy to write a role for her. The best-known of these is the part of Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Obviously this had to be included in the programme that Joachim Tschiedel recorded with the Accademia di Monaco, called 'Arias for Nancy Storace'. This role is represented by the recitative 'Giunse alfin' and the aria 'Deh vieni'. Storace was a favourite of the Viennese audiences, and the programme ends with Mozart's concert aria Ch'io mi scordi di te, which he wrote for her when she decided to say goodbye to her admirers. Mozart himself played the obbligato fortepiano part.

The programme spans the entire period of Storace's stay in Vienna. It includes arias from operas by Salieri, Sarti, Paisiello, Martin y Soler and Stephen Storace, Nancy's brother. One of the nice aspects of this disc is that it features several composers who are almosty forgotten today, and whose operas are seldom performed, if at all. That certainly goes for Sarti and Storace. Sarti's Fra i due litiganti was the first opera especially composed for Storace. Considering that the arias are taken from operas most music lovers have never heard, it would have been helpful, if the booklet had informed the listener about the dramatic context of these arias.

Why two different singers were engaged to play the role of Nancy Storace, as it were, is a bit of a mystery. It is not explained in the booklet. They are slightly different, but as they take the part of Storace, they could not be too different. From a dramatic point of view Katharina Ruckgaber is the most convincing, whereas Marie-Sophie Pollak, who has a lighter voice, is stylistically more satisfying. "These aria compositions paint a fascinating picture of the singer's vocal profile, which in turn gives us insight into the aesthetic ideals of opera and singing in the late 18th century". That is certainly true, but that does not really come off in the actual performances. I am sure that singers used considerably less vibrato than is the case here.

The orchestra plays well, but I very much doubt whether in the classical period operas were performed with such a small ensemble as the Accademia di Monaco, which comprises seven violins, two violas, two cellos and double bass plus winds.

All in all, this disc is certainly very interesting, but I think that more could have been made of this project. The short playing time is also disappointing.

Considering that Nancy Storace received her first singing lessons from Venanzio Rauzzini, it makes much sense to include in this review a disc devoted to his activities as a composer. That part of his career has been neglected almost completely.

Rauzzini was born in Camerino, near Rome, and made a career as a soprano castrato. He studied in Rome and possibly also in Naples, where he may have been a pupil of Nicolo Antonio Porpora. He made his debut in Rome in 1765. Two years later he performed in Venice and in Vienna, where Mozart and his father heard him in an opera by Hasse. In December 1772 Rauzzini sang the role of Cecilio in Mozart's Lucio Silla in its premiere in Milan. In January 1773 Mozart wrote his virtuosic motet Exsultate jubilate for Rauzzini. In 1774 he settled in England, where he started composing, not only operas of his own but also arias for operas by other composers. In addition he acted as a singing teacher.

Today he is almost exclusively remembered as the dedicatee of Mozart's motet, and probably also as the teacher of Nancy Storace, but his compositions are badly represented on disc. Interestingly, Charles Burney, who met him in August 1772 in Munich, praised his virtuosity and the quality of his voice, but was most impressed by his compositional skills. These are put to the test, so to speak, on the Centaur disc, which includes some of his compositions for the theatre.

The largest part of the programme is taken by recitatives, arias and duets from his opera Piramo e Tisbe, which he may have written in Munich in 1769 and was performed in London in 1775. Rauzzini later put these extracts together to a cantata. If one did not know that Rauzzini was the composer, one would probably think this was unknown music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck. The similarity to the latter's style is astonishing. Quite different are the arias from Le Ali d'amore, the first opera that Rauzzini specifically composed for London and which was performed there in 1776 to good acclaim. These arias are technically very demanding and resemble the highly virtuosic soprano arias by Mozart. The disc ends with a duet with introductory recitative from the opera L'eroe cinese, first performed in London in 1782, and revived two years later.

Undoubtedly, this is a highly interesting disc, and the quality of the music is such, that one can only hope that more of Rauzzini's oeuvre will receive attention. In addition to music for the theatre, he composed cantatas, songs, some sacred works and instrumental music. Unfortunately, the performances on this disc are not entirely convincing. Stefanie True impresses with her performances of the arias from Le Ali d'amore, as she copes very well with the technical requirements. It is rather odd, that she takes care of both roles in this piece. The main problem - apart from the relatively wide incessant vibrato of the two sopranos - is that their voices are not very different. As a result, in Piramo e Tisbe a kind of monotony creeps in. The performance is not very engaging. I am sure that this cantata may have made a much better impression in a more theatrical performance. The orchestra plays well, but here I also had liked to hear more differentiation and a stronger dramatic tension.

The music is fine, but the performances in general are little more than competent, and that is not enough.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Marie-Sophie Pollak
Katharina Ruckgaber
Stefanie True
Accademia di Monaco
Capella Savaria

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