Of the many contemporaries of Scarlatti that applied themselves to the solo cantata, one of the most prolific was the influential globe-trotter Giovanni Bononcini, author of 283 such works. During the first quarter of the 18th century, Bononcini's cantatas represent the dominant trend within the genre. His works display a sure and easy technique, and he was blessed with a genuine gift for melody. Bononcini's genius is considered to lie in the expression of tender and pathetic sentiments. Plaintive melodies, characteristically rich and gentle, are his personal trademark, and the defining feature of his dramatic works. And Charles Burney relates that Bononcini's recitatives were universally perceived as the best examples of their time, perfectly reflecting the spirit of the Italian language.
La Fida Ninfa premiered during the Verona carnival of 1732 at the Teatro Filarmonico. The work was composed to help celebrate the opening of the theatre, which had been postponed for two years, since at that time, the city had been surrounded by foreign military troops. The production was spectacular, and included elaborate ballets by Andrea Cattani, a famous ballet master from Poland, as well as sumptuous sets by Francesco Bibiena. “Vivaldi's score is a ravishing one, offering a rewarding sequence of beguiling arias, duets, a trio and a quartet. Sandrine Piau (Licori) and Verónica Cangemi (Morasto) take on the considerable vocal challenges of demanding roles with their usual tonal warmth and bravura, while Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Elpina) provides the necessary emotional contrasts. Topi Lehtipuu is a touchingly melancholic Narete, and Philippe Jaroussky an eloquently, sometimes passionately love-sick Osmino. Altogether a splendid achievement by Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his musicians.” (BBC Music Magazine)
In the World War II, in a small Italian village, Nunziata is an easy woman married with the cuckold tailor Gioacchino. Her teenage daughter Miluzza teases men with her clothes and gets men to lust after her. One day, Nunziata dies while having intercourse with an Italian Corporal at home, and Miluzza finds a job in the factory of the wealthy Don Peppe that rapes her. When Miluzza returns home, she learns that Gioacchino has died in the afternoon.
Young Miluzza is an innocent girl, unsure of the ways of the world. As she matures, the men in her small town find her a potent object of sexual desire. In fact, many feel she is as approachable and accessible as her mother, the town whore. Though married, Miluzza's mother takes many lovers. Her husband merely goes about his business, convinced that one day his wife will come to her senses. When tragedy strikes, Miluzza is left all alone. While hiding from the Germans during the war, she stumbles across Pietro, a wounded soldier. He takes Miluzza back to his home, where the two hope to find some manner of happiness.
Barbara Bonney's recital of the Schumanns' songs is prefaced, in the booklet-note, with a little feminist homily from the singer defending the reputation of Clara as woman and artist. Clara hardly needs that kind of defence nowadays, witness recent CDs by Skovhus and Stutzmann, plus several others not reviewed in these pages; her songs are far from patronized, let alone neglected. Yet, for all the advocacy of these singers, her inspiration remains for me intermittent, though thoroughly conventional songs are occasionally leavened by notably individual ones, such as, here, her very last and unpublished song, Loreley, which vividly conjures up that dangerous creature, particu lady in the hectic piano part, evocatively played by Ashkenazy. Indeed it seems that Heine most inspired her, as "Sic liebten sich beide" from her Op. 13 provoked a setting of economically intense meaning, to which Bonney finely responds.– Gramophone [9/1997].