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strings swagger, and if the result doesn’t quite achieve the same attack as London Baroque’s wonderful recording (Harmonia Mundi, 10/90), there’s a rawness here that lends a welcome clarity to the lines.

This is a disc that reminds us why live recital programmes are such a valuable part of recorded repertoire. Rather than the monochrome focus on the solo artist permitted by the artifice of the studio, we get a fully rounded musical experience that feels more satisfying both for performers and listeners. Alexandra Coghlan

‘Bel canto’ ‘From Monteverdi to Verdi’ Bellini Adelson e Salvini – Dopo l’oscuro nembo. Norma – Casta diva Donizetti Betly, o La capanna svizzera – In questo semplice, modesto asilo. Linda di Chamounix – Ah! Tardai troppo…O luce di quest’anima Mercadante Virginia – Icilio…Io t’amo! Monteverdi Madrigals, Book 9 – Sì dolce è ’l tormento Mozart Die Zauberflöte – Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen; O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn!…Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren Rossini Maometto II – Giusto ciel, in tal periglio. Semiramide – Bel raggio lusinghier… Dolce pensiero Verdi Attila – Santo di patria indefinito amor!…Fammi ridar la spada!. I masnadieri – Dall’ infame banchetto m’involai… Oh, ma la pace…Tu del mio Carlo al seno…Carlo vive? Oh, caro accento Simone Kermes sop Concerto Köln / Christoph‑Mathias Mueller Sony Classical F 88765 45504‑2 (63’ • DDD)

This kind of internal crossover of repertoire started with conductors and is now spreading to singers. A few can do it – Patricia Petibon has handled it well, although she’s never saddled herself with a large slab of new material foreign to her all at one go. The French soprano’s Queen of the Night ‘Der Hölle Rache’ impresses – but Simone Kermes’s sounds like Papagena (and a light Papagena) has suddenly decided to take over her enemy’s music. So this recital is disappointing. Kermes is a lovely singer and one could imagine some of this material working in concert but not for keeps on record. What can she bring to this repertoire? As you would expect, she’s good at ‘the runs’ and the high notes. However, she simply doesn’t have the weight or dark colour to frighten us (as the Queen of the Night) or inspire us (let alone her Druid congregation) in the iconic Norma aria. Ditto for I Masnadieri and Semiramide. One is only aware of a fine musician tackling an interesting repertoire –

not too many recitals can boast numbers from Betly, Adelson e Salvini or any Mercadante – with care (and interest) for the first time. Also, it’s still not enough of an everyday occurrence to hear arias from this period with historically informed accompaniments, although the conductor’s and orchestra’s work here is careful rather than sparkling. The final Monteverdi item is heavenly, both in itself and in reminding us how strong Kermes is on home turf. Mike Ashman

‘Che puro ciel’ ‘The Rise of Classical Opera’ JC Bach Artaserse – No, che non ha la sorte… Vo solcando un mar crudele Gluck Ezio – Pensa a serbarmi, o cara; Se il fulmine sospendi. Orfeo ed Euridice – Che puro ciel; Vieni a’ regni del riposoa Hasse Il trionfo di Clelia – Dei di Roma, ah perdonate! Mozart Ascanio in Alba – Ah di si nobil alma; Perché tacer degg’io?…Cara, lontano ancora. Mitridate, rè di Ponto – Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto Traetta Antigona – Ah, se lo vedi piangere; Ah, sì, da te dipende. Ifigenia in Tauride – Dormi Oreste!a Bejun Mehta counterten aRIAS Chamber Choir; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin / René Jacobs Harmonia Mundi F HMC90 2172 (70’ • DDD)

The American countertenor Bejun Mehta’s thoughtfully chosen programme takes as its theme the new aesthetic of the 1750s and ’60s that put dramatic truth before virtuoso excess. At the centre of Italian operatic reform were Gluck and his younger contemporary Tommaso Traetta, celebrated in his lifetime for his fusion of Italian opera seria with French tragédie lyrique. Mehta chooses three numbers from each composer, beginning with a performance of Orfeo’s ‘Che puro ciel!’ that grows, movingly, from rapt wonder to passionate yearning. Always acutely alive to text and dramatic situation, Mehta is equally vivid in two contrasting arias from Gluck’s Ezio, one all tender concern, the other heroically flamboyant, with Jacobs and the Berlin period band in no-holds-barred support – and never mind the over-creative, and anachronistic, fortepiano continuo.

The Traetta pieces are hardly less memorable. If Mehta’s highest notes can rasp in Emone’s ‘Ah, se lo vedi piangere’ from Antigona, he gives a performance of high-octane abandon, spurred on by quivering, writhing strings. His soft singing and refined phrasing are persuasively heard in the gentle minuet in which Emone implores Antigone to save herself, and in a stately aria from Hasse’s Il trionfo di Clelia, its wide leaps elegantly negotiated.

Elsewhere JC Bach – writing within the traditional Metastasian opera seria aesthetic – is represented by a terrific ‘storm-at-sea’ aria which singer and orchestra dispatch with a barely controlled wildness. Mehta’s dramatic involvement elevates some rather routine invention in the items by the teenage Mozart, not least in a bravura aria from the tension-free serenata Ascanio in Alba, where the coloratura is expressive, never a vehicle for empty posturing. Superb choral cameos – dulcet in the Elysian chorus from Orfeo, by turns insinuating and venomous as the Furies in Traetta’s Ifigenia – set the seal on the most enjoyable, intelligently planned countertenor recital to have come my way in years. Richard Wigmore

‘I viaggi di Faustina’ Bononcini Rosiclea in Dania – Lasciami un sol momento Mancini Traiano – Sinfonia; Canta e dì caro usignolo; Spera sì, mio caro bene Porpora Agrippina – Sinfonia. Poro – Raggio amico di speranza; Son prigioniera d’amore Sarro Partenope – Tortora che il suo bene. Flute Concerto Vinci Catone in Utica – Confusa, smarrita; Non ti minaccio sdegno. Il trionfo di Camilla – Scendi da questo soglio; Un guardo solo ancor. Cantata, ‘Parto ma con qual core’ – Ecco mi parto Roberta Invernizzi sop I Turchini / Antonio Florio Glossa F GCD922606 (67’ • DDD)

Faustina Bordoni was one half of Handel’s so-called ‘Rival Queens’ for just under three seasons (1726-28), and in 1730 she married Hasse in Venice. Roberta Invernizzi digs deeply and into unfamiliar repertoire performed by Faustina during numerous successful engagements at Naples between 1721 and 1732; there are also a few arias by Neapolitan composers she performed at Parma and Turin. I Turchini’s recorders dulcetly evoke a nightingale in ‘Canta e dì caro usignolo’ from Mancini’s Traiano, and Invernizzi’s beautiful slow singing and the sensitive string band are breathtaking in the siciliano ‘Un guardo solo ancor’ from Vinci’s Il trionfo di Camilla. There is only an extract from Vinci’s Parto ma con qual core, written for Faustina to bid farewell to her Naples audience in 1723. Glossa’s volume launches an ambitious new series entitled ‘Sirens’, exploring the musical journeys of celebrated Baroque singers; the booklet contains an essay, illustrations and even a comprehensive chronology of Faustina’s entire career. David Vickers