Ah forsè lui from La Traviata - Piano

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Amore e Tormento offers an ambitious programme, and Mr. Ample torment there is in these songs of men bolstered and betrayed by love, but no torment is there to be had from hearing Mr. His is the sort of voice, and this the sort of singing, that is balm to wounded hearts and ears offended by the vacuous performances of singers pursuing acclaim rather than art. Today, the same circumstances of a young singer entering the recording studio to record a first recital of Italian music would be rather more likely to produce a performance of music by Monteverdi. When the likes of Bernacchi, Caffarelli, Carestini, and especially Farinelli mounted the stages of Europe it was to waves of acclaim that reshaped the Baroque musical landscape.


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Music was increasingly tailored to the unique technical abilities of the singers for which it was created, enabling these physically-modified songbirds to compile troves of specially-crafted arias with which they conquered city after city. With the twilight of the castrati , the music composed for them also fell into darkness, not only because it was increasingly out of fashion but also because voices capable of executing it were no longer cultivated. From among the ranks of many fine countertenors, the Australian David Hansen has distinguished himself with singing of intrinsic beauty and technical brilliance.

This exploration of music composed for Farinelli and his contemporaries Bernacchi, Caffarelli, Carestini, and others is Mr. Born Carlo Broschi in , Farinelli is the best-remembered of the scores of widely-acclaimed castrati who ruled musical Europe like veritable monarchs from the earliest stirrings of opera until the early 19th Century, when tenors supplanted castrati as operatic heroes.

With the appearance of artists of the caliber of Mr. Hansen, singers capable of both sustaining high tessitura and portraying operatic heroes with genuine rather than feigned masculinity, the revival of interest in Baroque opera was perhaps inevitable. Only sporadic primary-source accounts offer 21st-Century observers with suggestions of how the voices of Farinelli and his rivals sounded to the ears of their contemporaries. The music composed for these astounding voices offers a myriad of clues, however.

In the pared-down environment of historically-informed performances of Baroque music, niceties of instrumental timbres and choices of tempi are of great importance. The work of fine singers has too often been undermined or even completely spoiled by clumsy instrumental playing and conducting that substitutes idiosyncrasies for legitimate scholarship. The Fondazione Academia Montis Regalis, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in , has as its goal the promotion of Baroque traditions of teaching and playing, and the instrumentalists of the Academia orchestra are extraordinary virtuosi who nonetheless combine to create a seamless ensemble.

Indeed, much of their playing on Rivals is outstanding. Rhythms are ideally taut but never forced or exaggerated.

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Much of the credit for the incredible rhythmic vitality of the performances on this disc must be given to Maestro De Marchi, whose experience in Baroque opera and oratorio is evident in every track. Maestro De Marchi, who also plays the continuo harpsichord, supports Mr. Hansen to deliver each aria as his technique and interpretive choices dictate. Focus is always on the music at hand, and this concentration shows in performances that simply sound right for both the music and the singer.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings "Folie! Sempre libera" from "La Traviata" - Giuseppe Verdi

Of Mr. Though his range is higher than many of his countertenor colleagues, Mr. The timbre is bright but not strident, and his method of singing places vowel sounds on the breath in the best bel canto manner.

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This allows Mr. Hansen to sustain cantilena with power equal to that with which he delivers bravura passages. His ventures into his upper register on this disc are not mere stunts: music composed for Farinelli suggests that the tessitura of his voice extended at least to top D—the vocal territory of Beverly Sills and Dame Joan Sutherland—and could, at least for a time, reliably sustain notes to top C. In combining a gorgeous timbre with formidable technical prowess, Mr. Hansen is as compelling a modern stand-in for Farinelli as might be heard, and he possesses the additional benefit of unmistakable machismo that likely eluded Farinelli and his castrati counterparts.

Hansen, as it apparently was for Farinelli: singing with absolute mastery of the music, Mr.

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Hansen rips through the aria in stunning fashion, artfully but never willfully ornamenting the da capo after reaching dizzying heights in his B-section cadenza. Hansen effectively contrasts his upper and lower registers. Gaetano Majorano - , known as Caffarelli, was, like Farinelli, a pupil of Nicola Porpora, who considered Caffarelli the finer singer. The tessitura of the music composed for Caffarelli by Leonardo Leo suggests that the Bitonto-born castrato —one of the few castrati whose enjoyment of singing as a boy was such that he asked to be castrated—had a range similar to that of Farinelli.

The final cadenza covering slightly more than two octaves is a formidable example of Mr.

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The vocal leaps are here even wider, and tones at the top of his range approached without the benefit of preparation are occasionally snatched out of the stratosphere with apparent effort, but Mr. Hansen maintains the integrity of the line throughout the aria. His preference for an understated resolution to the B-section enables his placement of top notes—including his superb top B-flat—and negotiation of ornaments in the da capo to dazzle all the more.

His singing of a trill high in the voice in the final cadenza is reminiscent of feats brought off by Maria Callas in La Sonnambula , not those of a countertenor.


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Hansen brings to his singing of the aria precisely the ringing martial quality that the music requires. Hansen sings the aria with heartrending intensity of expression, his long-breathed phrasing building from the opening descent from D at the top of the staff to the G a fifth below to create impeccable arcs of sound. Hansen takes advantage of this device to beautifully execute crescendo and decrescendo effects.

Here and elsewhere, the accuracy of Mr. The poise with which Mr. As in his singing of all of the arias on this disc, Mr. Recitals of music composed for Farinelli and other famed castrati are no longer infrequent occurrences: with the advent of a generation of gifted countertenors capable of stylishly singing the music in the proper register, increased attention has been granted to this long-neglected repertory by female singers, as well.

In the high-lying music written for soprano castrati like Farinelli and Caffarelli, the efforts of female singers have often been preferable to those of countertenors, in fact, the voices of the latter being ill-equipped for the tessitura of the music. In this regard, David Hansen is indubitably an exceptional singer: the sparkling brightness and facile placement of his upper register is one of the glories of his artistry. It is impossible to know how the voices of Farinelli, Bernacchi, Caffarelli, and their rivals sounded in the arias on this disc: it is doubtful that even they could have sung this music better than David Hansen has done on Rivals.


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Legend has it that a pre-premiere run-through of the first three movements of the Requiem were somewhat sabotaged by the relentless fortissimo pounding of an over-enthusiastic timpanist; here, and throughout the work, Bending offered a master-class in percussion playing, achieving tense restraint, insistent power, and building to perfectly judged, thrilling climaxes. This was a wonderful performance in which Alsop drew forth the underpinning mood of the Lutheran chorales which are the foundation for so many of the melodies, sustaining a consistent aura of lyrical splendour and combining the movements, which can sometimes feel disparate and lacking a clear dramatic progression, into a convincing whole.

Alsop captured the sombre mood but did not quite sustain the momentum, especially in the slower developmental central section, and she struggled to gather the various, sometimes extensive, episodes into a structurally coherent whole. The textures were crisp, however, and there was some beautifully relaxed piano playing from the horns and woodwind.

The surge towards the terse conclusion was fittingly stormy. The dark brooding of the double basses all eight of them was neatly countered by the sheer sonorities of the upper strings and woodwind solos. An enchanting oboe solo from Michael Niesemann introduced the second movement, a graceful Romance in which the violins found a translucent elegance, inspired by some wonderful playing by leader Kati Debretzeni.

A spirited Scherzo gave way to more temperate Trios, before an upwelling into the robust, exuberant Finale, in which Alsop — who conducted from memory throughout the concert — demonstrated an energetic enthusiasm which bodes well for September 7 th , when she will become the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms.

There was much fine playing from the OAE. Santa Fe Opera produced it several times in the seventies, but this year's staging was definitely not your grandmother's version. First seen at the Universal Exposition in Paris, its singable tunes and military satire made it a big hit.

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Santa Fe Opera produced it in the seventies, but this year's staging was definitely not your grandmother's version. He and Choreographer Peggy Hickey added gymnastics and cheerleading to the usual singing and dancing. There are plenty of cartwheels and even a new Offenbach can-can. Adrian Linford's arched sets made a good background for the active staging while Jo van Schuppen's costumes were wonderfully decorative and exquisitely detailed.

Although the music was sung in the traditional French, the updated English dialogue was full of double entendres.

Ah! Forse e Lui... Sempre Libera from La Traviata for Trumpet and Piano

Susan Graham was the Grand Duchess, a role made famous by Paris's best-loved singing actress of the s, Hortense Schneider. The Duchess, who loved men in uniform, took a whirl with practically every male on the stage, but since she was a good woman at heart, she dropped them when told they had families. In the meantime, she flirted deliciously, sang in idiomatic French style and danced gracefully with an occasional high kick!

Graham is a super-star mezzo-soprano in her prime and this role was perfectly suited to her vocal and histrionic abilities. Her impressive second act aria was the focal point of the evening. Lyric tenor Paul Appleby, who sang with beautifully colored tones, was a warm hearted, if clueless, Fritz who only wanted to marry his girlfriend Wanda. Much of Gerolstein's comedy was fomented by the demoted General Boum, sung by sonorous bass Keven Burdette, the amusing Baron Puck, interpreted by effervescent tenor Aaron Pegram, and Prince Paul, the lanky, reluctant bridegroom, sung by smoky-voiced baritone Jonathan Michie.

Numerous apprentices excelled in small solo parts while others formed Susanne Sheston's fine chorus. Emmanuel Villaume led the admirably precise orchestra in this well-paced rendition of Offenbach's exhilarating music. Although during the overture servants picked flowers that had sprung up from the bare stage, the production was completely traditional. Paul Brown's scenery and costumes set the story in the time and place established by its original author, Caron de Beaumarchais. Lisette Oropesa is an up-and-coming soprano who has established an excellent reputation for singing with luminous tones and precise coloratura.

Her Susanna was flirty, saucy and passionate. Zachary Nelson's Figaro was somewhat less authoritative because of the size of his voice, but his interpretation was persuasive. Susanna Phillips was a smooth, sumptuous-voiced Countess who sang a slow, drawn out 'Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro' 'O Love, give me some remedy' and an artfully phrased 'Dove Sono, I bei momenti' 'Where are the beautiful moments?

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