… are the personages in this "Christmas Cantata" written in 1712 for performance at the Vatican. The notes with the CD suggest a burden of historical and political allusions in the libretto, quite interesting in their way but utterly imperceptible to modern ears. Really, the recitativos and arias of Caldara's Vaticini di Pace sound remarkably like Handel - the same broad but expressive melodies, the same robust instrumental accompaniment, the same treatment of the voice as a thing apart from the instruments, so unlike the hard-to-sing instrument-like vocal lines of JS Bach. To listeners of 1712, of course, it would have been vice-versa, Handel who sounded like Caldara, since Caldara was fifteen years older and well established.
Bellini’s penultimate opera – written for La Fenice, Venice, in 1833 – has never enjoyed the popularity of such works as La sonnambula, Norma and I puritani. Listening to this vintage Joan Sutherland recording dating from 1966, it is hard to fathom why. The story is strong and stirring – a sort of cross between Maria Stuarda and La Gioconda – and offers fine roles for the wronged titular heroine, her villainous husband Filippo, her platonic admirer Orombello and his would-be mistress, Agnese del Maino (a Princess Eboli avant la lettre). How odd that Sutherland never managed to persuade Covent Garden to mount it for her, especially with this glorious cast. The Decca set is historic because it offered the legendary Sutherland/Pavarotti collaboration for the first time on disc. Luciano is wonderfully stylish here, elegant and ringing: Nureyev, vocally-speaking, to Sutherland’s Fonteyn. La Stupenda was going through one of her ‘moony’, muddy-diction phases, but the vocalism is quite dazzling. It’s a joy to encounter Josephine Veasey in her only commercially recorded Italian role: velvet-toned, shining, she is Sutherland’s most lustrous mezzo rival in any bel canto recording. (BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE)