CDs

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THE OPERA BEFORE THE OPERA

The prologue is a unique feature of early baroque opera: an opening scene where an allegorical figure enters the stage to prepare the audience for the musical drama to come. Thus Prologue is the musical introduction of Italian star soprano Francesca Aspromonte and her exclusive, long term engagement with Pentatone, promising great joy as well as drama in the years to come.

Prologue is a highly original album consisting of several prologues from early-baroque operas by Monteverdi, Caccini, Cavalli, Landi, Rossi, Cesti, Stradella and Scarlatti. Strung together, they form a representation in a single act, a theatre full of small, complete dramas: the opera before the opera.

Francesca Aspromonte is quickly establishing herself as a shining star in the Baroque firmament. She has curated this album together with musical director Enrico Onofri, who leads il pomo d’oro, one of the most important and successful period ensembles of today.

"Aspromonte’s diamantine timbre, rich, expressive palette and outstanding care for words make her an ideal mistress of ceremonies."
The Sunday Times

"...While the bright and silvery tones of her upper register are prominent features, there is also much expressive use of darker and warmer tones in these fluid and flexible accounts, packed with sensitive detail, and alive to the essential unity of words, music and meaning"
Gramophone

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The first recording of the opera with a countertenor in the title role! Serse is one of the most popular Handel operas; it is set in Persia (modern-day Iran) about 470 BC and is very loosely based upon Xerxes I of Persia. Serse, originally sung by a soprano castrato, is now regularly performed by a mezzo-soprano or countertenor.

The Italian libretto has a fascinating history, because it is based on one by Nicolò Minato from 1654 and was later adapted by Silvio Stampiglia (for an opera by Giovanni Bononcini in 1694). It is however unknown who eventually re-wrote the libretto for Handel. The three-act opera was premiered in London on 15. April 1738 at the Londoner Kings' Theatre and sadly had no success at all. After 5 performances they had to take it off the schedule and the opera was forgotten for almost 200 years! The famous opening aria, "Ombra mai fu", sung by Serse to a plane tree (Platanus orientalis), is one of Handel’s best known melodies for its outstanding beauty.

Francesca Aspromonte appears courtesy of Pentatone Records

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""...Francesca Aspromonte se està imponiendo como una de las voces italiana mas interesantes para el barroco y su encantadora Atalanta, con una vocalizacion facil, solo lo confirma, rivalizando come soconda donna con la prima..."
Mundoclasico

"...Francesca Aspromonte's blithe, fresh-toned Atalanta is keenly alive to the moments of tenderness, even melancholy, that add depth to the character. This Atalanta is no mere flirt. Aspromonte also gives an object lesson in the pointing and colouring of the Italian text"
Gramophone

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Ottavio Dantone leads Accademia Bizantina and a top-level cast in the new production of one of Händel's most important works, the composer's operatic debut in the UK and the first Italian opera ever written for London: Rinaldo.

The plots, magic and charm of 18th century theatre come alive today, bringing us back to the fervour of the London of the time. A real gateway to the golden age of Baroque theatre, with attention to the rules and conventions that underpin the drama for music.

Francesca Aspromonte appears courtesy of Pentatone Records

“…La voix de Francesca Aspromonte est pleine, ronde, bien projetée : elle lui permet ainsi de faire d’Almirena autre chose qu’une oie blanche plaintive et timide – ce qui ne l’empêche pas pour autant d’être fort émouvante dans les pages élégiaques. La chanteuse évite cependant de dramatiser le personnage à l’excès si bien que son interprétation devrait satisfaire à la fois ceux qui n’aiment pas les voix trop légères dans ce rôle, et ceux qui ne goûtent guère la surcaractérisation et certains excès expressifs de Cecilia Bartoli (version Hogwood)…”

Premiereloge

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À l'occasion des 450 ans de la naissance de Monteverdi, Cappella Mediterranea et Leonardo García Alarcón souhaitent lui rendre hommage avec ce programme empruntant au thème universel des péchés et vertus qui traverse son univers lyrique, ses madrigaux et la Selva morale : Monteverdi donne, avec L'Incoronazione di Poppea - l'opéra peut- être le plus amoral de l'histoire de la musique - une représentation du vice et des émotions qui y sont liées mais offre également son pendant vertueux, son remède moral, avec les madrigaux de la Selva morale. C'est dans cette perspective que ce projet a été imaginé.

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Looking ahead to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Haydn in 2032, the Joseph Haydn Foundation of Basel has joined forces with the Alpha Classics label to record all of the composer’s 107 symphonies. This ambitious project is placed under the artistic direction of Giovanni Antonini, who now presents the third volume, after two previous issues that attracted great attention and received numerous awards, including the Echo Klassik Prize 2015 for the ‘best orchestral recording’ of the year.

Since he sees the music of Haydn as ‘a kaleidoscope of human emotions’, Giovanni Antonini has decided to approach the symphonies not chronologically, but thematically; the theme here is Haydn the philosopher. The Italian conductor has chosen in each of the programmes to make connections between the symphonies and other works. For this volume, he calls on the magnificent soprano Francesca Aspromonte to perform the famous aria ‘Solo e pensoso’.

"...Francesca Aspromonte (née en 1991) en cisèle vocalement chaque arête vive, chaque éclat d’un texte qui rappelle combien tout marcheur en pleine nature fut-il solitaire et recueilli, ne peut que reconnaître la silencieuse compréhension de la nature, miroir et écho naturel de ses tourments amoureux. Une réflexion musicale qui débute introspective et sereine puis se déploie en un ravissement plus conquérant et brillant, motif d’une virtuosité élégantissime pour la soliste..."
Classiquenews

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With this third installment of the Stradella Project, Andrea De Carlo and Ensemble Mare Nostrum continue the exploration of the oratorio output, following the recent rediscovery of San Giovanni Crisostomo.

An historical figure from the 10th century, Edith of Wilton was an English nun of noble birth, and legend has it that she refused the opportunity of taking the throne, causing the aversion of a faction of nobles.

The title role of Stradella’s oratorio, Edith is disputed between various allegorical characters: on the one hand Humiltà, pushing her to a chaste monastic life, on the other hand the mundane figures of Grandezza, Bellezza, Nobiltà and Senso, all inviting her to become Queen and enjoy the pleasures of life. In the end, Edith will ignore the strong arguments submitted by the latter in favour of the advice from an arrogant Humiltà, a sort of alter ego of the Queen who was not to be.

The Argentine soprano Verónica Cangemi offers us an emotional portrayal of the title role, surrounded by a distinguished cast, including Francesca Aspromonte as Nobility, Gabriella Martellacci as Greatness, Fernando Guimaraes as Beauty, Sergio Foresti as Sensuality, and Claudia Di Carlo as Humility.

As in previous installments, recording was made within the framework of the Alessandro Stradella International Festival in Nepi, the composer’s birthplace.

"...A vivid performance – a foil for the diverse cast of musical characters around her. The standout is Aspromante. This young soprano…is all sparking ease and delight..."
Classicalarte

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The importance of the musician Bernardo Pasquini is well known to all those who dedicate themselves to the study of the harpsichord or organ. His vocal music, on the other hand, consisting primarily of cantatas, operas and oratorios, is far less known. But it includes true gems of vocal art from the late Roman Seicento.

Pasquini belongs to the fortunate generation of composers who were under the patronage and sponsorship of such eminent personalities in Rome as Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni and Christina of Sweden, bringing forth the musical flowerings of the second half of the 17th century. In so doing, they made a decisive contribution to the stylistic and formal development of instrumental and dramatic vocal music in Italy up until the late Baroque period.

'La Sete di Christo' is a Passion oratorio. Four protagonists meet under the cross of Jesus on Calvary: his mother Mary, St. John, Joseph from Arimathia and Nicodemus.

The score’s sublime quality is nowhere in doubt and its absolutely original music-dramatic solutions were later assimilated by Handel in Rome. The pulsing rhythm of the musical narration goes far beyond the conventional erudition of the text, leading to a breathtakingly intensive finale.

"...Francesca Aspromonte’s fresh-voiced Virgin sings deliciously in counterpoint to succinct string ritornellos in music that ebbs and flows gracefully and emotively, and she concludes the oratorio with a deeply affecting musical evocation of the Pietà..." 
Gramophone