With a libretto based on the Old Testament account of Gideon and his non-violent triumph over the Midianites, the Neapolitan composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) produced a score which, though far from consistent, has moments of great beauty. Among them are Gideon’s aria ‘Cadranno i lupi’; a sublime Sinfonia at the opening of Part Two; a couple of fine choruses and, above all, beautifully wrought recitatives. These apart, don’t expect a forgotten masterpiece. This performance – the first in modern times – boasts competent and well-matched soloists. Countertenor Kai Wessel as the eponymous hero gives a poised and musical account, though his voice could benefit from a weightier lower register. Male soprano Jörg Waschinski produces an ethereal, emasculated sound that is, perhaps, as close as we can come to that of the original soprano castrato who sang the part of Gideon’s enemy, Oreb. (Pity the man – he ends up losing his head, not to mention his unmentionables.) But most impressive is soprano Linda Perillo (Gideon’s wife, Sichemi) whose singing is by turns agile, sensuous and dramatic. Martin Haselböck draws some silvery string playing from the Vienna Academy, and if his shaping of the oratorio can lack momentum, at least he avoids the aggressively hard-driven style of some period performances.-Kate Bolton
Italian composer Nicola Porpora is mainly a footnote in the history books these days, noted as Haydn's teacher, but in his day he was a rival to Handel and wrote a good deal of music for the celebrated castrato Carlo Broschi, aka, Farinelli. That music is sampled here by the startlingly soprano-like French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, and listeners are likely to feel that it's been unjustly neglected. Jaroussky sounds great, his creamy voice sailing through the mostly tuneful pieces. There are also a few big showpieces of the sort that Renée Fleming and others have recorded on their Baroque aria albums. Jaroussky is not quite as powerful here, but there are some real finds in the music like the gripping soprano-and-trumpet cadenza in "Nell'attendere il mio bene," from Polifemo (track 8). All the way through the music is like that: it's recognizably part of the same world as Handel's arias, but it's full of original touches unrelated to Handel. Porpora's most famous piece, the atmospheric "Alto giove" (again from the opera Polifemo) is here, as are a couple of duets in which Jaroussky is joined by no less than Cecilia Bartoli. These fall easily into the classification of rare treat. Throw in sensitive accompaniment from the Venice Baroque Orchestra and conductor Andrea Marcon for an extremely worthwhile Baroque aria recital. (James Manheim)
'Orlando' is an operatic masterpiece by the Neapolitan Composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) who left an indelible mark on the 18th century and the careers of its greatest masters, from Hasse, Jommelli and Handel to Joseph Haydn, who was his pupil in Vienna. Against the background of the old Carolingian epic, the valiant knight Roland is transformed here into a lover before becoming 'Orlando furioso' in this encounter of three mythical figures: Ariosto, Metastasio and Porpora. The gamut runs from epic to tragedy in this vibrant, crackling performance under the inspired direction of Juan Bautista Otero.
«A most famous composer in London at the time of Haendel and a great protagonist of the Ospedali musicali in Venice, Nicola Antonio Porpora (1686-1768) is nevertheless forgotten gloomily of our musical culture. To the rare discographic recordings dedicated to his music, we can add this one, conducted magnificently by Jérôme Correas. (…) Correas interpretation is sensitive, vivid and it stands like a mirror of Porpora's vocal vuirtuosity ; this exaggerated virtuosity is here a natural and vital component of the score, fostering an atmosphere of fervent mysticism (…) that arouse emotions.»Massimo R.Zegna, Amadeus