musica Dei donum
Tomaso Albinoni/Nicola Porpora/Giovanni Porta/Antonio Vivaldi et al: Andromeda liberata, serenata in 2 parts
Katerina Beranova (Cassiope),
Simone Kermes (Andromeda), soprano;
Max Emanuel Cencic (Perseo), alto;
Marijana Mijanovic (Meliso), contralto;
Enrico Onofri (Daliso), tenor
Venice Baroque Orchestra
Dir: Andrea Marco
concert: Utrecht, December 6, 2004
When at the start of the concert season I saw the announcement of a
performance of the serenata 'Andromeda liberata by Vivaldi' I tried
everything to keep that night free, as I was looking forward to hear
it. Only a month later I noticed the release of the recording of that
same piece with the same performers on Archiv. Normally I hate it when
musicians come to play the programme which is also on CD and available
in every music shop. But in this case I didn't regret it, as the cast
wasn't entirely the same as on CD and as the question about the
authorship of this serenata caused quite a stir.
That Vivaldi has composed all of it nobody believes, but how
large exactly the part of Vivaldi in the composition of this serenata
has been is a matter of controversy. The renowned Vivaldi scholar
Michael Talbot believes only one aria, 'Sovente il sole', has
definitely been composed by Vivaldi. Having studied the score his
theory is that the overture and the choruses as well as the arias of
Meliso have probably been composed by Porpora, Albinoni almost
certainly composed the arias of Cassiope, one of Perseo's arias and
probably also the duet of Andromeda and Perseo, Giovanni Porta the
arias of Andromeda and another composer - the suggestions are Antonio
Biffi or Antonio Lotti - those of Daliso. There seems to be no clue as
to who composed the recitatives and who put the serenata together.
Vivaldi may have composed only one aria in this serenata, it
is his name which draws the audience to a performance of this piece.
The performance in Utrecht was well attended, but one wonders how many
people in the audience would have bothered to come if the piece had
been advertised as being composed by Porpora or Albinoni. And who on
earth is Giovanni Porta? As it turned out the whole piece is a
collection of the most exquisite music one could wish for. Yes,
Vivaldi's aria was a highlight, and typical Vivaldian at that, with its
virtuosic solo part for the violin. But there were many other delighful
arias. Giovanni Porta may not be a household name, even to lovers of
baroque music, but the arias of Andromeda are among the best in this
serenata, in particular 'Un occhio amabile', with its beautiful solo
part for the cello (Porta himself was a cellist), and the rage aria 'Lo
so, barbari fatti', with a very effective use of the horns.
And Albinoni may not be known in the first place for his vocal
music, Cassiope's arias show a composer who knows how to write for the
voice. I especially liked the virtuosic aria 'Si rinforzi in te la
spene' and the lyrical 'Con dolce mormorio'. I was a little less
impressed by the role of Meliso, which is rather small anyway, but his
aria 'Ruscelletti limpidetti', with its illustration of the murmuring
brook in the strings was delightful. Daliso's role is a good one, but
his music is perhaps not the most noticeable of the serenata, the best
part being the aria 'Peni chi vuol penar'.
The star of the night was certainly Simone Kermes. She has a
very beautiful and brilliant voice, and, what is more important, she
was able to portray her character very vividly, more than any other
singer in the cast. She was definitely the most communicative of them
all. She felt much at home in the above-mentioned rage aria, but was
also able to sing 'Un occhio amabile' with great subtlety.
In many ways Mac Emanuel Cencic was the opposite. His voice
seems not to be very powerful, but his singing is also characterised by
a rather wide vibrato, which I think is unstylish and sounds ugly to my
ears. I have to say it didn't bother me that much in his aria 'Sovente
il sole', which he sang quite beautifully, but much more in his other
aria 'Non ha tranquillo il cor'. Here - as in the recitatives - the
text was difficult to understand and the lower notes were too weak. As
he is not exactly a newbie in opera I was surprised by the stiffness
and lack of communication in his recitatives.
No lack of communicative skills had Enrico Onofri. Better
known as specialist on the baroque violin - where he also likes to
communicate vividly with the audience, as I experienced during a
concert in the Holland Festival Early Music in Utrecht earlier in the
year - he is acting as a professional singer since about three years.
Considering his vocal qualities and the general character of his
singing I don't see him in a very dramatic role. He would be better
suited to more comical roles like in intermezzi. But Daliso isn't the
most deep character in this serenata anyway, so he was alright here. I
especially admired his rhythmically free and speech-like performance of
the recitatives. It was completely naturally - perhaps partly due to
the fact that he is a native Italian speaker.
Marijana Mijanovic is a fast rising star in baroque opera. The
strength of her low register is remarkable and makes her voice quite
dramatic. These qualities didn't quite fit the not too dramatic role of
Meliso, but she was able to sing her arias beautifully.
Katerina Beranova was a new name to me, but certainly one I
hope to see more often in the cast of baroque operas and oratorios. I
was pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of her voice, and the
felixibility of her singing, as she impressively demonstrated in the
aria 'Si rinforzi in te la spene', performed at high speed, but phrased
and articulated well nevertheless. And I loved the sweetness of her
voice in 'Con dolce mormorio'.
Lastly the orchestra: I have heard the Venice Baroque
Orchestra during a concert before, with Andreas Scholl, when it made a
very strong impression. It wasn't any different this time. On the
contrary, right from the start it demonstrated that it belongs to the
best baroque orchestras of our time, with vivid playing from the
strings and impressively blaring horns in the overture. Its support of
the singers was outstanding, driving them on or delivering sweetness
and intimacy. The performance of the instrumental solo parts in some
arias was excellent as well.
There may be uncertainty as to who exactly composed what in
this serenata. Maybe that question will be answered sometime in the
future. But from a musical point of view, who cares? If the music is
that good, it fully deserves to be performed and recorded. It was a
great night, and I am sure that whoever purchases the recording won't
regret it and will listen to it more than just a couple of times.
Johan van Veen (© 2004)