Due at least in part to Naïve's growing catalogue of exemplary recordings of the relatively obscure operas of Antonio Vivaldi, more and more singers are happily turning to his vast operatic output as a source of new material. Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená brings an earthy emotionality to this selection of arias that is weighted toward the ravishingly lyrical, but which also includes the floridly virtuosic. While she is fully invested in each role, and brings intelligently considered and emotionally committed characterizations to each of the arias, her singing is, in a way, self effacing; she is clearly more interested in the characters and the music than in making a show of her own voice, and that make her performances all the more appealing. Kozená's voice is warm and radiant, with an especially luminous middle and brilliant top. While her lower register doesn't have the strength and volume of Marilyn Horne, or her closer contemporaries like Viveca Genaux or Elina Garanca, the arias here that highlight the low end of her voice tend to be laments, which don't require ferocious power. Her ability to create soaring, long-breathed legato phrases is exceptional. Standout selections include the lyrical, lovely "Gelido in ogni vena," from Farnace, "Mentre dormi Amor fomenti," from L'Olimpiade, and especially the limpid "Sol da te, mio dolce amore," from Orlando Furioso, and the coloratura "Armatae face et anguibus," from the oratorio, Juditha Triumphans. Venice Baroque Orchestra, led by Andrea Marcon, tends to be overly weighted toward the bass, and comes off as heavy and pounding in the fast arias, but is more balanced in the lyrical selections. The soloists who provide instrumental obbligatos deserve special commendation. Archiv's sound is clean and present.
Magdalena Kozená Sings Vivaldi Review
by Stephen Eddins