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Patricia Petibon: Redhead

available at Amazon
Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias,
P. Petibon, Venice Baroque Orchestra, A. Marcon

(released on August 3, 2010)
DG 477 8763 | 75'24"
Redheads should not be famous only for being crazy, even if some of the most notorious ones -- Achilles, Caligula, Elizabeth I, Lucille Ball, Beverly Sills, Vivaldi, Sarah Bernhardt, Van Gogh, Cleopatra, Emily Dickinson -- are known for their fiery temperaments. For her new album of Italian Baroque arias, French soprano Patricia Petibon plays on the popular assumptions about her own hair color, incarnating some volatile personalities in an astounding range of music, by some of the big guns (Handel, Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti), as well as a few lesser-performed composers like Sartorio, Porpora, and Stradella. We have admired Petibon's singing before: in Haydn's Orlando Paladino and as a flighty Sœur Constance in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites. Like her reportedly dynamic Lulu at this summer's Salzburg Festival (even while costumed in lingerie), her success is often more dramatic than purely vocal. Certainly the promotional videos released by Deutsche Grammophon, which show Petibon gesticulating wildly, rocking from side to side, with the face of a person possessed or disturbed, indicate that that side of her performing personality prevailed even in recording.

A recital of assorted opera arias is unlikely to be of much interest to a serious collector, although opera fanatics will surely want to hear this disc. Petibon's sense of drama does carry into the music, as she embellishes her melodic lines with every imaginable elaboration and variation, whispering, growling, soaring to a clear top, and descending to a gravelly bottom. The sense of brilliant dramatic contrast in many ways sums up the aesthetic goals of the Baroque period, and this extravagance, at the service of the emotional punch of each work, is the musical counterpart of the dramatic tenebrism of a painter like Caravaggio. The playing of the Venice Baroque Orchestra is beautifully scaled to these extremes, from a full-bore rhythmic tussle to the gentle accompaniment of lute or therbo. Specialists will also be pleased to read the disc's liner essay, contributed by Philippe Beaussant, the musicologist who founded the Centre de Musique Baroque in Versailles.


Anonymous said...

Huh? Your opening sentence is nonsensical. Where did you get the idea that Beverly Sills was notorious? She wasn't famous for being temperamental either. How about you do a little fact checking before you write.

Charles T. Downey said...

Hmm, redheads are also known for being overly sensitive to stereotypes about redheads?

True, Bubbles was not generally a temperamental diva in the old mold off the stage, but was not she not known to have a certain flair for the dramatic on stage?

Unknown said...

My understanding is that Cleopatra's red hair is an urban legend. After all, while her family may originally have been Roman, the Ptolemy's had lived in Egypt for 300 years by the time Cleopatra was born.

Garth Trinkl said...

I also saw the new Deutsche Grammophon promotional video of Ms. Petibon – on Classics Arts Showcase – and I thought that it was quite exciting and not at all compromising of the cause of baroque music. Just my opinion.

And I don’t believe that your comment “with the face of a person possessed or disturbed” is really fair either. This comment has been made recently about other top (female) singing stars as well, some of whom have virtually sold out the Kennedy Center.

Charles, why don’t you use your excellent publishing and critical platform to advocate for Classic Arts Showcase being shown in the Baltimore/D.C. area? Your state-side colleagues Mssrs Babcock, Barry, and Lodico may care to join you in this worthwhile, in my opinion, classical arts exposure and education advocacy. Thanks.