Nicola Porpora: Arias

Nicola Porpora: Arias

by Karina Gauvin


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Nicola Porpora: Arias

For most listeners, if they know his name at all, Nicola Porpora was the composer who took the young, impoverished street musician Franz Joseph Haydn under his wing and created one of the greatest geniuses in all of Western music. For much of his career, Porpora tended to be in direct competition with another figure who happened to be more popular; no sooner had his rival in Venice, Leonardo Vinci, died in 1727 did Europe witness the rise of Johann Adolf Hasse. Traveling to England with his star pupil Farinelli, Porpora locked horns with George Frederick Handel for primacy on the London stage...and lost. It is also his bad luck that, in posterity, Porpora has to share his historic time frame with not only Handel, but with Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach. Although Porpora was at least productive in most musical mediums, it was in opera where he made his strongest mar; very little of Porpora's operatic music has been recorded, even in part. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin and Il Complesso Barocco under Alan Curtis are rendering, in a practical sense, a tremendous service to the understanding of eighteenth century Western music through selecting a program of 13 arias and one overture from Porpora's key operas and realizing them here, in Atma Classique's Porpora Arias. Such a rigorous and intellectual observation does nothing to convey what a splendid experience this disc is, and it appears most followers of great singing will get something out of this even if they care not a whit about Nicola Porpora. Gauvin is just awesome. Her instrument is powerful and extremely present in this excellent Atma Classique recording, with seemingly inexhaustible resources for expressiveness and dramatic fire when called for. These are tough arias; a fair number of them were written for Farinelli, but Gauvin is more than up to the level of endurance needed to carry them off with style and aplomb. Porpora's operas would be a tall order to revive in whole form owing to their unusual structure; they contain practically no recitative and consist of long strings of arias, defeating almost any dramatic interest that their libretti might have deigned to deliver, and in some cases the libretti were weak to begin with. On the other hand, Porpora's great and consistent strength was in the excellence of his orchestrations and Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco do not shrink from that advantage, setting flexible tempi and paying close heed to the implied dynamics and accents of these scores. In a harmonic sense, Porpora was more interesting and innovative than Handel, though one can forgive contemporary audiences for their addiction to Handel and his deft, elegant rectitude; some of these lush, French-flavored arias must've played like music from outer space in eighteenth century England. Listeners will be thankful to Atma, Curtis, Il Complesso Barocco, and especially Gauvin for this splendid recital, both for what it reveals about Porpora and for its sheer entertainment value.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/25/2009
Label: Atma Classique
UPC: 0722056259026
catalogNumber: 2590


  1. Adelaide, opera: Aria. Nobil onda
  2. Adelaide, opera: Aria. Non sempre invendicata
  3. Ezio, opera: Recitativo ed aria. Misera, dove son?
  4. Ezio, opera: Aria. Non son io che parlo
  5. Polifemo, opera: Rec. Acc. Aci, amato mio bene
  6. Polifemo, opera: Aria. Smanie
  7. Festa d'Imeneo, opera: Aria. Mi chiederesti meno
  8. Orlando, opera: Aria. Mentre rendo a te vita
  9. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Ouverture
  10. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Ah che langue
  11. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Il tuo dolce mormorio
  12. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Rec. Acc. Misera, e che farò?
  13. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Misera sventurata
  14. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Si caro ti consola

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Nicola Porpora: Arias 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin has a pretty voice and good Baroque technique-nice trills, ornaments, and coloratura, seamless register breaks, and a pleasing tone. She has that Kathy Battle sweetness about her. I'd be interested in hearing her sing the standard rep-roles like Blondchen, Linda di Chamounix, Adina, etc. For my taste, Porpora's music is less than exciting. It is pleasant enough and displays the singer's virtuosic technique, but it all sounds alike. If you get really riled up about Handel, however, you might love it.
JimD More than 1 year ago
I've heard Karina Gauvin as soloist in several works (including a lovely Mozart Requiem), and looked forward to this album of arias by Nicolo Porpora, in his time a major opera composer. He may not have Handel's gift of instantly memorable melody, but his music falls easily on the ear, and calls for the soloist to display virtuoso technique in a variety of emotions (the majority of them less than happy). Gauvin's tone seems a bit darker than I remember, but she still spins out a warm lyric line, and in coloratura passages, she avoids the extremes of Fleming's smudginess and Bartoli's machine-gunning. Il Complesso Barocco provide elegant support on period instruments, and go solo in one overture. Texts are included, with the booklet notes filling in details of the operas' plots and original productions.
CraigZ More than 1 year ago
To many modern listeners the Neapolitan composer Nicola Porpora is mostly remembered for being one of Handel's rivals for supremacy on the London stage. Anti-Handel factions formed The Opera of the Nobility, a company whose purpose was to bring down the Royal Academy of Music (Handel's company) and Porpora was their chief composer. Despite the fact that Porpora wrote five operas, an oratorio and other works, the company failed and Porpora left London. The London affair is only part of Porpora's story because he was a major talent and a widely respected composer of his day. He wrote over 50 operas, taught the singers Farinelli and Cafarelli as well as the composer Hasse. He was Kapellmeister at the Dresden court and while at Dresden took on a young man named Franz Joseph Haydn as his valet, pupil and accompanist. While there have not been many complete recordings of Porpora's operas-even the seminal Neapolitan Baroque series on Naïve hasn't touched him-this disc by Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin with Alan Curtis leading Il Complesso Barocco fills a huge gap. I think Gauvin is one of the most exciting singers on the scene and while she is quite familiar to fans of early music (check out her Handel and French Baroque recital albums on ATMA Classique); this recording should have enough appeal to put her on the radar of anyone who enjoys glorious singing. Glorious it is. Porpora's music is rich with twisting vocal lines, highly dramatic recitatives and melody aplenty, it is very Baroque indeed. I can find no fault with anything Gauvin sings here. She is blessed with a bountiful voice that lacks nothing in warmth or clarity and she handles the treacherous fioritura with ease. When needed she can summon plenty of brightness too, but it's not an Emma Kirkby-styled English soprano glow, think of something more Mediterranean. Curtis and company are superb accompanists and even get to take a solo turn in the Overture to Porpora's Arianna. This is fattening music so I would suggest enjoying it in small sips, perhaps a few arias at a time, and you will be well pleased. I was.
ProfessorJF More than 1 year ago
Porpora Arias - A Wonderful Surprise! Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) was a composer from the Neopolitan School in Italy who wrote 48 operas and various Religious works. He was considered an excellent vocal coach having the great castrato, Farinelli as his star pupil. He competed unsuccessfully with Handel in London in 1729, and, later in life became one of Franz Joseph Haydn's early music instructors. His operas are not up to the artistic level of Handel or Vivaldi, but the music is interesting and enjoyable nonetheless. The arias on this CD exhibit interesting orchestral writing replete with creative chromatics, imaginative counterpoint, and subtle use of string suspensions. The vocal lines are driven by brilliant virtuosity and dynamics. I just wish the melodies were a bit more memorable! Since many of these arias were written for castrati (women were not allowed to sing on stage in Rome and other Italian cities at that time) the use of highly virtuosic music was required. Karina Gauvin is one of the opera singers forging the current revolution occurring in early, middle, and late (high) Baroque opera performance. She has a razor-sharp vocal technique, steely sound production, confident and super virtuosity, and a depth of emotional understanding befitting these arias. She sounds both vulnerable and powerful in bringing out the drama of this music. This is her newest release following the many laudable Handel, Vivaldi, and Lully operas she has already recorded. Why Porpora?-In a commercial video made by Atma for this release, Alan Curtis said he just wanted to record a different composer other than Handel-that simple! His contribution to this disc is as usual-authoritative, elegant, and clean-sounding. Curtis is one of the leaders of this current Baroque opera explosion although he's been at it for over 30 years! I like his recordings in general, but I find that he can be dramatically sterile at times. After all, this genre of opera is "show business", too. Il Complesso Barocco performs the music superlatively throughout the recording. The CD contains two arias from Adelaide, one from Ezio, one from Polifemo, one from Imeneo, and one from Angelica. All these arias are supposedly world premier recordings. The remainder of this generous 80 minute disc contains the sinfonia and four arias from Arianna in Nazzo (1734). Arianna has been previously recorded in full but the less said about Gauvin's counterpart in that recording the better. The highlight for me is the aria "Misera Sventurata" from Arianna. The aria is beautifully crafted with a haunting obbligato solo oboe throughout. The oboe and soprano interweave the delicate theme creating a most tender and memorable musical experience. This is Porpora worth knowing! The sound of this disc is very good but the orchestra is a bit recessed and Gauvin a bit too forward. You have to increase the volume just slightly to get better orchestral definition - too much and Gauvin is too loud. Her recordings for Naïve and Archiv are balanced better. The booklet reviews the arias from a musicological and historical perspective and they are complete in Italian, French, and English. The photographs of the recording sessions are a nice touch. If you love Baroque opera, this disc is a valuable supplement to the wonderful recordings Alan Curtis and Karina Gauvin have already given us. ENJOY!