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Roma Travestita is Warner Classics' recent compilation of eighteenth-century arias for the castrato voice, performed by the Brazilian male soprano Bruno de Sá with the orchestra Il Pomo d'Oro under the direction of Francesco Corti. The release is available in both CD and digital format, and liner notes include libretto texts and historical background remarks by Yannis François in French, English and German. The album runs for seventy-three minutes on one single disk.
Listen — Scarlatti: Mi rivedi, o selva ombrosa (Griselda)
(0190296619809 track 2, 3:30-4:00) ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Ltd :
Born with a rare instance of a male voice naturally occurring in the soprano range, the young de Sá has dedicated himself to the resurrection of a significant body of repertoire composed for the era in which women were forbidden from the stage by papal decree. The age was, thus, one that also demanded male singers who could plausibly sing female operatic roles - the castrati - as well as a corresponding body of music designed to capitalize on the unusual qualities of their resulting voices. The present product of de Sá's efforts is a curation of thirteen arias from the castrato era which are rarely heard in modern times; indeed, the liner notes indicate that eight of these arias are presented here in world-premier recordings.
The ten operas excerpted on this disk - and their respective composers - are as follows: Griselda by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), Farnace by Leonardo Vinci (1690-1730), Giustino by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Vologeso, re de' Parti by Rinaldo di Capua (c1705-c1780), Achille in Sciro by Giuseppe Arena (1713-1784), Evergete by Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785), Adelaide by Gioacchino Cocchi (c1712-1796), Livia Claudia Vestale by Nicola Conforto (1718-1793), Pompeo Magno in Armenia by Francisco Javier García Fajer (1730-1809) and La buona figliuola, o La Cecchina by Niccolò Piccinni (1728-1800).
Listen — Leonardo Vinci: Lascierò d'essere spietata (Farnace)
(0190296619809 track 3, 0:57-1:27) ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Ltd :
To put these operas in context, their dates of composition span from 1721 to 1760, and the music correspondingly reflects the audible broader influences of the galant style in the transition between what we now commonly think of as the baroque and classical periods. To the curating team's credit, the track information for each aria also includes the name of the premier singer known to have originally played the castrato role in the eighteenth century. Among these singers is Carlo Broschi ('Farinelli'), who remains easily the best known of the historical castrati today. Yet the list also provides an impressive array of other names who may be less familiar: Giacinto Fontana ('Farfallino'), Girolamo Bartoluzzi, Angelo Maria Monticelli, Giovanni Tedeschi, Giuseppe Ricciarelli, Filippo Elisi, Giovanni Belardi and Gaspero Savoj. Thus, this compilation is a tribute not only to a neglected body of remarkable repertoire, but also to the extraordinary castrati who had sacrificed so much to bring this art to life in the first place.
Since this album consists mostly of premier recordings, I find it best to judge the listening experience on its own terms, focusing my attention on internal consistency and general presentational flow. These factors being considered, the sonic profile of the recordings strikes me as very well-balanced with a clarity and depth of sound, and the sequencing of the arias in presentation maintains listener interest through continuous textural, stylistic and emotional variety.
Listen — Antonio Vivaldi: Per noi soave e bella (Giustino)
(0190296619809 track 4, 0:13-0:43) ℗ 2022 Parlophone Records Ltd :
In short, I consider this release a true sui generis, a noble and unique collective effort painstakingly researched and brilliantly executed. Yannis François, Francesco Corti, Il Pomo d'Oro and Bruno de Sá have together gifted us with an exceptionally rare opportunity to so vividly glimpse into the world of the castrati and their music. How fortunate it is that de Sá has lent his singular voice to such a cause.
Copyright © 3 November 2022
John Dante Prevedini,