Pyrotechnics: Vivaldi, Opera Arias, V. Genaux, Europa Galante, F. Biondi
(released on December 8, 2009)
Virgin Classics 694573 0 2
Although not all of the selections on this CD are arias created for castrati, many qualities of Genaux's unusual voice -- a quasi-male tone in the chest voice, a burred edge to the sound, endless breath support, and the ability to punch high notes -- make Genaux a more credible stand-in for that (happily) lost voice type than Cecilia Bartoli, whose castrato album (heard but not reviewed at Ionarts) was smothered under an unavoidable blanket of publicity at its release. As heard in Genaux's contribution to that remarkable recording of Vivaldi's Atenaide, where she sang the castrato role of the Emperor Teodosio, the technique for fast passage work is unparalleled, making the fast arias and the ornamented parts of the slow ones breath-taking listening. The disc also reunites Genaux with Fabio Biondi and his period-instrument ensemble Europa Galante, after a memorable collaboration on Vivaldi's Bajazet, and the instrumental playing is poised, richly varied, and at times sensuously distracting from the voice (as in the final track, with the flutes of Sin nel placido soggiorno, from an unknown opera).
Your next opportunity to hear Vivica Genaux in person will be the spring performance of Washington Concert Opera, not Baroque opera but her other specialty, the bel canto repertory, in this case the title role of Rossini's La Cenerentola (May 9, 6 pm), at Lisner Auditorium.