Thursday 16 January 2020

An engaging Baroque recital from City Music Foundation artist, Anna Cavaliero

Anna Cavaliero
Anna Cavaliero
Monteverdi, Handel, Strozzi; Anna Cavaliero, William Cole; City Music Foundation at church of St Bartholomew the Less
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 15 January 2020 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An engagingly imaginative Baroque recital from British-Hungarian soprano Anna Cavaliero as part of the CMF Presents... season

British-Hungarian soprano Anna Cavaliero is one of this year's City Music Foundation Artists and at the CMF Presents... recital on 15 January 2020 at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less, Smithfield in London, Cavaliero accompanied on the harpsichord by William Cole, gave a recital of baroque arias and cantatas, including excerpts from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea and L'Orfeo, Handel's Theodora and Partenope, plus a complete performance of Handel's La Lucrezia, Barbara Strozzi's L'Eraclito amoroso and an aria from Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre's Semele.

We started with a vivid account of Fortuna's opening aria from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, 'Deh, nasconditi, O Virtu' and though the ornamental passages were perhaps not quite as pin-sharp as they could be, it was a performance full of character. Handel's cantata O numi eterni, usually called La Lucrezia, followed next. Written in 1706 whilst Handel was in Florence, it is just for singer and continuo but Handel gets full value out of the welter of emotions from Lucretia before she commits suicide after being raped by Tarquinius. Cavaliero opened with a strong recitative and then followed a sequence which moved between moving moments and sections where she was really spitting out the text, articulating Lucretia's strong emotions. We ended in a dignified touching way, before the final vivid recitative. There were moments when, perhaps, Cavaliero's passage-work was a little smudged, but there is no doubt about the way she captured the emotions of the character, and the complete sense of the drama unfolding.

The recital presented a series of strong arias and excerpts, and in each Cavaliero gave a vividly identified performance. Between the items, she gave characterful introductions, deftly introducing each.

We then moved on to Barbara Strozzi, for her L'Eraclito amoroso, a short cantata for soprano and continuo from Strozzi's 1651 collection Cantate, ariette e duetti. It is a lament for lost love, and Cavaliero gave us a lovely unfolding of the vocal line over Cole's ground bass, nicely delineating the emotions. Monteverdi's Proserpina came next, in her aria from L'Orfeo asking her husband to be sympathetic to Orfeo. This was short, and hovered between aria and recitative, and you longed for it to go on.

Cleopatra's Piangero la sorte mia from Handel's Giulio Cesare was given in quite an intimate performance, but still full of emotional detail. The rather lovely opening section was contrasted with a highly vigorous middle, and the Da Capo was discreetly ornamented. We then moved to France for the final, moralising aria from Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre's cantata Semele which was published in 1715, in a performance full of plangent charm.

Finally, we returned to Handel for a group of arias. First a pair from his oratorio Theodora, 'O that I on wings could rise' and 'With darkness deep as I my woe', both sung by Theodora. The first was touching, with the character's eager youthfulness nicely caught, whilst the second was more sober and full of deep emotion, with a beautifully sonorous harpsichord accompaniment. We ended on a lighter note with Partenope's opening aria L'amor ed il destin from Partenope, in a rather stylish performance full of confident bravura.

Anna Cavaliero is a very engaging performer, whether singing or talking to the audience, and she charmed and engaged throughout this recital with her vivid delineations of the various characters in what was an attractive and well-thought-out recital. Throughout, Cavaliero was wonderfully supported by William Cole at the harpsichord, doing duty for what in some cases could have been a whole welter of continuo instruments.

The near capacity audience was enthusiastic, and we were treated to an encore, a further piece of Barbara Strozzi.
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