Any recording of an opera by Benedetto Marcello will, for many, bring to mind his literary satire, IL TEATRO ALLA MODA, subtitled "a safe and easy method of properly composing and producing Italian operas according to modern practice." Within its pages, no one involved in the creation of opera-librettist, composer, singers, impresario-is spared. In one passage, the composer is admonished to "oblige the impresario to provide a great number of violins, oboes, horns, etc., preferring to let him economize on double basses, for these should not be used except in the preliminary tuning."
In the winter of 1733-1734, the opera houses of London were abounding in Ariannas. In late December, Porpora's Arianna in Nasso was staged by the Opera of the Nobility. In late January, Handel's Arianna in Creta was staged by the composer's own opera company. Comparison, apparently, proved odious – and fatal: Porpora's Naxos Arianna has fallen from the repertoire while Handel's Cretan Arianna has barely hung on by her finger tips. This 2005 Greek performance with George Petrou leading the Orchestra of Patras is the work's first recording in decades – and, thankfully, it's quite fine. Most of the women soloists – and whether their characters are male or female, most of the parts here are sung by woman because most of the parts then were written for castratos – are terrific. Mata Katsuli is sweet but strong in the title role and Theodora Baka is especially effective and affecting as Alceste. The period instrument Orchestra of Patras is stylish, colorful, and lively, particularly the winds and brass playing in the finale. As captured in Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm characteristically crisp, deep, and detailed sound, this Arianna is well worth hearing by anyone who reveres the operas of the German-English composer.(James Leonard)
Queen Christina of Sweden was a lavish patron of music in her own kingdom - initially she mainly extended her patronage to French musicians but from 1652 it was largely Italian musicians whom she brought to her court in Stockholm. Having secretly converted to Catholicism, Christina abdicated in June of 1654 and almost immediately left Sweden - most of her valuable library had been smuggled out earlier - and made her way to Rome, her journey there seeming at times to be effectively a series of triumphal processions; there’s a fine account of all these events in Veronica Buckley’s Christina. Once established in Rome - where her arrival was greeted by special musical performances in the Palazzo Barberini, the Palazzo Pamphili and elsewhere - she soon became one of the city’s most active patrons of literature and music. In his entry on Christiana in Grove, John Bergsagel lists some of the musicians associated with her: Alessandro Scarlatti, Marazoli, Francesco Bianchi, Pasqualini, Alessandro Melani and Pasquini. Christina’s is the presence which haunts, as it were, this very interesting new CD from the Ensemble Vocale e Strumentale, Il Concerto d’Arianna.
Peiwoh is the long-awaited second solo album by the extraordinary singer/harpist Arianna Savall. Both the music and the repertoire of Peiwoh expand greatly on her debut album Bella Terra. Here, the music is performed by a unique nine-piece ensemble including brother Ferran Savall on vocals and theorbo. The album's theme is based on the taoist tale of Prince Peiwoh, who played a magical harp whose stubborn spirit could only be tamed by the greatest of musicians. This album, like so many on the Alia Vox label, represents a seamless blending of various traditions from east and west, classical and world. Arianna Savall plays a variety of instruments ranging from the small Gothic harp to the majestic Celtic harp.