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Porpora Arias featuring Karina Gauvin

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Product Details

  • Performer: Karina Gauvin
  • Orchestra: Il Complesso Barocco
  • Conductor: Alan Curtis
  • Composer: Nicola Porpora
  • Audio CD (August 25, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ATMA Classique
  • ASIN: B002ED6VKE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,531 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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 farÚ?
13. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Misera sventurata
14. Arianna in Nasso, opera: Aria. Si caro ti consola

Editorial Reviews


"It's probably premature to speak of a revival, but suddenly the seldom-heard music of Nicola Porpora has resurfaced often enough to claim center stage on a trio of CDs. The 18th-century Neapolitan opera composer, previously better known as Handel's London rival than for his own music, is responsible for the lion's share of the music on Cecilia Bartoli's Sacrificium CD and new DVD, which delve, sometimes luridly, into music written for castrati (for those of you new to this slice of music history: yes, that). Same for a new CD, Lava, by Simone Kermes, Bartoli's current rival in over-the-topness. Naples. Lava. Opposite of Iceland, but smoke galore.

Into that fray steps soprano Karina Gauvin, the Morgana in last year's stunning Handel Alcina with Joyce DiDonato. Gauvin's Porpora Arias (ATMA Classique) is led by out early-music maestro Alan Curtis and the people who brought you that Alcina, his ace Il Complesso Barocco. Probably only a singer of Gauvin's cultivation - who demurs from the charades of her above-named colleagues and relies instead on those tired old values of beauty of timbre, solidity of technique and depth of psychological penetration - could bring off an all-Porpora CD. But this is one you can listen to from beginning to end without looking at your watch. And there's more to hear in it every time you go back, which is likely to be far more often than you ever thought." -Tim Pfaff -- The Bay Area Reporter - June 17, 2010 -

Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, whose beautiful voice has graced a wide repertoire ranging from rare Baroque fare to Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, here devotes her impeccable technique to the rarely heard music of Neapolitan composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768). The melodies are so beguiling, the showcase opportunities and coloratura challenges so great, that it's hard to understand why six of the 11 arias on Gauvin's CD are world premiere recordings. What's easy to understand is the beauty of her singing. Cecilia Bartoli's equally beautiful, recently released Sacrificium (see review) shares with Gauvin's CD a recording of Porpora's "Nobil onda" (Noble spring) from his opera Adelaide. The singing is as different as the English translations: Gauvin's being sweet and lovely, Bartoli's sensationally fast and furious. Their period-orchestra accompaniment is equally different, Bartoli's displaying far more of a tangy, early-music edge. I wouldn't want to be by my fireside without either version. And I certainly wouldn't want to be without Gauvin's disc, whose warmth will make any Baroque music lover (or indeed any vocal music devotee) one happy holiday camper. -- San Francisco Classical Voice, Jason Victor Serinus, November 20, 2009

Following the success of her recent Handel disc for ATMA Classique, Gauvin returns to the studio for a disc of arias by Nicola Porpora (1686-1786). Gauvin and conductor Alan Curtis unearthed these long forgotten pieces at the British Museum, choosing the best ones for this recording. Some of these compositions have not seen the light of day for centuries. It demonstrates once again the wealth of wonderful material waiting to be discovered. One can't find a more worthy exponent of these arias than Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, who possesses the beauty of tone and stunning technique to do these works justice. The very first aria, "Nobil onda" from Adelaïde, is a veritable trill-rest - I tried to count the number and gave up mid-aria! The bravura pieces require great agility, while the adagio pieces demand rock-solid legato and a real sense of line, not to mention plenty of breath! The recorded sound is crisp and clear, with just the right balance of orchestra and soloist. The booklet has a substantial article on Porpora, a piece on the baroque band Il Complesso Barocco, plus artist bios. There are also nice photos of the recoding sessions. Considering the musicological importance of this recording, a few facsimiles of the original manuscripts would have been nice. At a generous 77 minutes, it is best to sample the arias a few at a time. This is a "must-have" disc for admirers of Gauvin and rare Baroque repertoire. -- La Scena Musicale, JKS, October 2009

Here is a well-chosen program of arias and instrumental music from the pen of Nicola Porpora (1686-1768), a Neapolitan composer who rivaled Handel and Hasse in popularity and counted the castrato Farinelli and the librettist Metastasio among his friends. Porpora's cantatas and instrumental music have been fairly well represented on CD, the operas less so. Currently, there are only two complete recordings of Porpora's operas listed on Accordingly, this disc contains "world premiere recordings" of arias from Adelaïde, Ezio, Polifemo, Imeneo, and Angelica. Given the track record of Baroque specialist Alan Curtis, I wouldn't be surprised if an intégral of one or more of these operas is already in the works. The performers seem really inspired by the music, and the recorded sound is quite atmospheric, thanks to the recording venue, an old monastery near Venice. Surely a candidate for next year's Want List, right? Well, not mine, at any rate.

The liner notes cite "superstar" status for Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, and there's no denying that. She is somewhat of a Baroque specialist, having participated in several complete recordings of operas of Handel, Lully, and Scarlatti under conductors Alan Curtis, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Bernard Labadie, and Ottavio Dantone. She has a huge following in Canada, thanks in part to former Fanfare columnist Jürgen Gothe, who used to feature her regularly on his late, lamented radio program. A further indication of Gauvin's popularity is this quote from the magazine Opera Canada: "[H]er laser-beam soprano is clear and focused, with vibrato only used sparingly and tastefully to color and phrase." The trouble is, except for the "laser-beam" part, I don't hear any of that. Yeah, it's all very dramatic, but this style of singing would be more appropriate in 19th-century opera. It's exciting vocalism, no doubt, but along with drama, the music also calls for finesse, delicacy, sensitivity, variation in tone and dynamics, and far less vibrato. Although Gauvin does manage some quiet singing at times, I get the odd feeling that she's trying to downsize her voice to fit the music.

I realize that my opinion may be in the minority, but one only has to read accounts of the great singers of the 18th century to appreciate that present-day Baroque singing bears little resemblance to the original. For starters, there is the question of vibrato: back then, singers used vibrato selectively as an expressive ornament, rather than a constant element of tone production, as it is today. Okay, so you don't like vibratoless singing, but in the case of Gauvin, her heavy vibrato leads to some technical issues. Case in point is her trill, which is simply a wider version of her vibrato. Or her passaggi, which could be cleaner than they are. Perhaps I'm being too hard on this young soprano; after all, her singing is never less than good, and conforms to the accepted norm for Baroque opera. In live opera, bravura singing of this kind would bring down the house; under the harsh focus of the recording microphone, one tends to react somewhat differently. In reality, it amounts to a rather strange hybrid--a Rossini/Verdi/Puccini soprano singing 18th-century Italian opera arias.

The instrumental contribution from Il Complesso Barocco is quite outstanding--yet another example of the many excellent period-instrument orchestras that have sprung up around Italy like dandelions in spring. The sole instrumental number on this CD--the Overture to Arianna--is very rousing, and features some excellent wind playing in addition to the fine string playing, the latter pretty much de rigueur these days in Italian period-instrument groups.

In short, recommended primarily to fans of Karina Gauvin and her style of Baroque singing. If she ever records Mimi or Violetta, I'll be one of the first to buy a copy. -- Fanfare, Christopher Brodersen , Jan-Feb 2010

Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) was a Neapolitan composer who penned more than 50 operas. He was as well known for being the voice teacher of one of the greatest singers of the time (and arguably the finest castrato), Farinelli, and also of Cafarelli, who was considered to be almost in the same league. Haydn was his apprentice; Metastasio was his frequent librettist. His operas are ideal examples of high Baroque, complete with absurdities and extraordinarily decorated vocal lines. He may not have been a "great" composer, but he was no slouch either; his operas were the toast of London, Vienna, Venice, and Naples, and the anti-Handel faction in London had its money on him to overthrow Handel. It didn't work. (Both men wrote Arianna operas, Imeneo operas, and Orlando operas.) Porpora was Kapellmeister in Dresden, but the introduction of Hasse and his wife, Faustina, ended that position. In the 1750s, he taught Haydn in Vienna. Though his arias tend to have a generic similarity to each other, his orchestration can be splendid--just listen to those trumpets on the second track of this CD, "Non sempre invendicata"; to the pair of flutes that accompany Galatea's lament from Polifemo, track 5; or to the spicy oboes for Arianna's aria, track 13. And for those who love florid vocal writing, Porpora's about as satisfying as a Baroque composer can get. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin has been sneaking to the forefront of music-lovers' consciousness for a while--a little Samuel Barber here, some Canteloube there, a bit of Mozart and Mahler. Then comes a disc of French Baroque music, a Handel disc, and suddenly the role of Morgana in an all-star Alcina (Archiv)--and she is a singer you look forward to. If the repertoire weren't so rarefied, this CD would push her over the edge into true stardom. Her voice is both bright and warm; a true soprano, the middle of her voice has sufficient body so that no emphases may be lost. Her trill is the real thing. She has taste--her embellishments are impeccably timed and tuned and it's clear she could show off more if she chose to. She sounds Italian in this music, with fine use of portamento in the many slow numbers, plenty of temperament for the outbursts ("Poor me!" or "Vengeance!" or "You coward!"). There's nothing "white" or early-music about her delivery. She's probably not a high-note queen; if she has high Cs, Ds, etc., her voice probably would not be as evenly produced as it is. As mentioned, the music may not be a collection of masterpieces, but it gives immense pleasure; Porpora, to give the devil his absolute due, knew how to write for the voice, and Gauvin has quite the voice. Vivica Genaux, René Jacobs, and Cecilia Bartoli have recorded Porpora arias--this is a composer absolutely worth getting to know. A CD of his arias was recorded by a countertenor named Angelo Manzotti on the Tactus label; it is terrifyingly bad--run from it. This one, however, is highly recommended. --, Robert Levine, September 25, 2009

Nicola Porpora (16861768) may not be a household name today. But the Neapolitan contemporary of Alessandro Scarlatti and Handel influenced, and was influenced by, his famous contemporaries. His operas and sacred cantatas epitomized the Italian Baroque style. In particular, his florid, beautifully decorated arias made a fashion statement for the age.

In Porpora Arias, Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, assisted by the ensemble il Complesso Barocco, now celebrating its 30th anniversary under its founder, American harpsichordist Alan Curtis. This will not be music to every listener's taste, but to those who are familiar with the conventions of baroque opera in the Neapolitan style, it is a veritable treasure trove. No fewer than five of the 13 arias on the program receive their world premiere recordings here.

In interpreting these arias, Karina Gauvin is particularly sensitive to Porpora's greatest strength his unerring ability to adapt the vocal line to the progress of emotions sometimes changing very suddenly and dramatically in the middle of a verse, so that the singer must adjust her breath stream accordingly. A good example of the conflicted emotions Porpora's heroines experience is in the aria "Mentre rendo a te la vita" (Now that I give you life) in which Angelica reflects that saving her faithless lover's life will only increase her own pain. The ripple of the melodic line splits into two four-syllable groups on the words of the text. When the rhythm speeds up in the second half of the verse, "Passa, o dio, la tua ferita / da quel fianco a questo cor" (Life transfers to my heart the wound in your side) the vocal line sobs with pain and sorrowful modulations.

Numerous other examples might be given to show the artistry Porpora's florid style requires of the human voice. This is a singer's art par excellent, requiring considerable psychological and interpretive insight as well as an extremely wellsupported breath stream that can encompass within it the composer's highly imaginative trills and other baroque embellishments. In these arias from Arianna, Adelaida, Ezio, Angelica, Imeneo, and Polifemo, Gauvin impresses with her absolute mastery of very demanding material. -- Audio Video Club of Atlanta, Phil Muse, October 2009

Nicola Porpora was a shining star of the Neapolitan school of music in the first half of the 18th Century. His operas follow the standard opera seria musical and dramatic formats. Metastasio was a frequent partner, and many of his librettos have been reused and adapted (La Clemenza di Tito is perhaps the most famous example of the latter). Wronged lovers, noble Greeks and Romans, characters seeking vengeance--stock opera seria material. Porpora at his best composed music of great beauty and formidable technical demands. Perhaps mine is a minority opinion, but the complete works and the arias I have heard, pleasurable though they are, do not have the individuality and depth of expression of Handel and Vivaldi operas.

Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin nails these arias with a sexy, alluring sound and excellent technique, making the music sound better than it is. Curtis once again shows himself to be a great interpreter of baroque opera. He gets his marvelous period ensemble to accompany Ms Gauvin with sensitivity and as much fire as possible in these predictable arias. I enjoyed this recording each time I played it. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember the music very well--something that never happens after Handel or Vivaldi. Texts and translations, notes and bios. -- American Record Guide, Michael Mark, January/February 2010

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi - The glory of this work is fleeting. What an apt description of the current status of Nicola Porpora. At one time, creator (with poet Petro Metastasio) of some of the greatest triumphs of musical performance that pleased monarchs, delighted their courts and held sway over public imagination - today Porpora is little known and even less recorded. Six of 14 arias on this disc are world premiere recordings. How could the vocal teacher of castrati Caffarelli and Porporino, female superstars La Romanina, Nicola Grimaldi and Lucia Facchinelli, the man who discovered his most important protégé, Farinelli, be so thoroughly neglected? Well, there are two reasons for that: there are no more castrati and, secondly and most importantly, the music of Nicola Porpora was always meant to be a neutral background on which to showcase the castrato's voice. His arias are not necessarily brilliant or groundbreaking - in fact, many of them seem repetitious. However, endowed with the sound of the castrato's voice they must have been stunning. Such voice is impossible to replicate. Even for the film Farinelli, the producers digitally "mashed" the counter-tenor and soprano, to achieve a desired effect. The Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin continues to amaze with the beauty of her voice, increasingly focusing on Baroque music. Technically flawless, in this recording she is augmented by the "first leaguers" of period performance, Il Complesso Barocco and Alan Curtis. So if no single human being can reproduce the castrato's voice, we owe Ms. Gauvin thanks for approximating it for us. -- Wholenote, Robert Tomas, November 1 - December 7, 2009

This beautiful, addictive disc opens a beckoning view on a virtually unknown Baroque landscape, recalling in this respect Drew Minter's Arias for Senesino (HM) and Cecilia Bartoli's Gluck opera seria arias (Decca). Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin is known for appearances at Glimmerglass, with the Boston Early Music Festival and at Carnegie Hall -- as well as, increasingly, in European venues. Working with veteran early music conductor Alan Curtis, she presents some very compelling operatic music by Nicola Porpora (1686-1768), one of the leading vocal composers of his time.

Trained in Naples, Porpora found favor with its Hapsburg rulers and was able to carve out a substantial international career in major European centers, tapped for both private and public commissions. Über-librettist Pietro Metastasio was an early and frequent collaborator: the Ezio and Angelica excerpts use his texts, the Arianna material is Paolo Rolli's close approximation of the master's Didone Abbandonata. Also a famous vocal pedagogue, Porpora numbered among his protegés such superstar singers as Caffarelli and Farinelli. Metastasio's patron, the soprano La Romanina, created Angelica's tender "Mentre rendo a te la vita," which Gauvin offers here.

Arianna in Nasso has been available on disc before, an iffy performance from Savona on Bongiovanni in which Tiziana Fabbricini does not begin to afford the vocal or stylistic pleasure Gauvin yields in the five well-crafted excerpts here. Gauvin aces the divisions, trills -- they come almost as thick and fast as in Hasse's music -- and rhythmic verve for which Porpora's more energetic music calls; when moods turn contemplative (as in "Non son io che parlo" from Ezio), her liquid yet dark-highlighted tone brings far more depth and variety of color to bear than do many competitors.

Among the dozen vocal selections and one overture (Arianna) included, five arias are given world premiere recordings. Porpora -- like Handel, whose similar da capo arias at best manifest greater psychological acuity -- has a few basic aria modes that he reworks in multiple ways. But the music, consistently fluid and fresh, is not without formal variety; it would be interesting to see if any of Porpora's operas sustains interest over an evening -- starring Karina Gauvin, please! Curtis and his band, Il Complesso Barocco, furnish alert, sonorous support. -- Opera News, David Shengold, November 2009

Youth is fleeting - experience is forever

There was a time, not so long ago, when experience and maturity were deemed among the best qualifications a conductor could bring to a podium.

Here is an original motto for the decade to come: Out with the new and in with the old.


CD obituaries proliferated, but the Analekta and ATMA labels remained bizarrely viable. Good voices - Gauvin, Hervieux, Lord - busted out all over. And in the dying days of 2009, there were still more baroque and contemporary ensembles in Montreal than you could shake a conductor's stick at.

Nice decade. I might miss it. -- The Gazette, Arthur Kaptainis, January 2010

Product Description

Following the immense success of her CD Handel Arias, Karina Gauvin returns with
a new recording of arias, most never recorded, from the operas of Nicola Porpora
(1686-1768). The prestigious Italian baroque orchestra Il Complesso Barocco under the
direction of Alan Curtis, accompanies Madame Gauvin on this recording, which was
produced in Italy.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
It was money terrifically well spent.
J. Luis Juarez Echenique
She has a razor-sharp vocal technique, steely sound production, confident and super virtuosity, and a depth of emotional understanding befitting these arias.
Jerrold Fink
He wrote over 50 operas, taught the singers Farinelli and Cafarelli as well as the composer Hasse.
Craig M. Zeichner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Craig M. Zeichner on October 1, 2009
Format: Audio CD
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 NaÔve 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.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Luis Juarez Echenique on August 27, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Karina Gauvin sings better in every new recording. Just this year she dazzled with her Morgana in Archiv's new Alcina, and now she offers a very special recital with opera arias from Handel's London rival Nicola Porpora. This was a great idea. Porpora of course, is not as great a composer as Handel, rather like Salieri or Paisiello to Mozart, but not being that kind of genius doesn't mean that he was a mediocre composer, he was a famous man in his time, working in the opera houses of Naples, Venice, London and Vienna, and he taught and composed for many of the great castratos of his day, including Farinelli. The music of Porpora is very different from Handel's, so maybe there is no point in comparing them, just as Salieri and Mozart are so different from each other. Karina Gauvin fully understands this and sings in a more italianate way his arias. She is admirable: she embellishes with exquisite taste, her trills are sure and exciting, but most important of all, she has the imagination to give variety and interest to a succession of arias. In all these she has the invaluable support of the marvelous ensemble Complesso Barocco and the experience of Alan Curtis. There are several good recordings of excellent music by Porpora, don't miss the Notturni per I Defunti and a disc of cantatas with soprano Elena Cecchi Fedi in Hyperion. But this is an important and valuable recital, in years to come, when (and if) it's deleted (hope not), this is the kind of cd that record collectors are going to pay a lot of money to buy second-hand, so before that happens, buy it at once. I would also like to thank the government of Canada for funding this project. It was money terrifically well spent.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jerrold Fink on September 24, 2009
Format: Audio CD
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.
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