Patricia Petibon / Andrea Marcon

Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias

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Rosso, soprano Patricia Petitbon's collection of Italian Baroque opera arias, may well be one of the most fun Baroque vocal recitals a listener is likely to encounter because Petitbon is so obviously having the time of her life. The arias, some familiar and some genuine rarities, from operas and oratorios by Handel, Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Stradella, Porpora, and Sartorio, express a broad range of emotion, including overwhelming grief, delight and wonder, seductive innuendo, and explosive rage. Petitbon, a spectacular singing actress, throws herself into them with such unselfconscious abandon and such interpretive insight that the listener, even without looking at the texts, is left with no doubt about the specific, sometimes evolving, emotional states of the characters. Purists may take offense at the extremity of her interpretations, which use sighs, whoops, shouts, and whispers to convey the extremity of the characters' emotional states, but their expressive honesty and directness are inarguable. Petitbon's luminous, prismatically lustrous voice and her flawless technique and agile virtuosity should dispel suspicions that she resorts to dramatic extremes to cover any vocal deficit. Every track is a marvel of interpretive depth and vocalism of the highest order, but Alcina's lament "Ah! Mio cor!" is especially dazzling; to heighten the intensity of Alcina's despair, Petitbon transposes some passages up an octave into the stratosphere and others down an octave into solidly baritonal range, to stunning effect. In Cleopatra's "Quando voglio," from Sartorio's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Petitbon weaves a spell of irresistible, playful sensuality. Scarlatti's "Caldo sangue" from Ismaele puts the limpid purity of her voice; her seamless, velvety phrasing; and the sensitivity of her dramatic instincts on full display. Andrea Marcon leads the Venice Baroque Orchestra in exceptionally thoughtful and inventive realizations of the scores. Deutsche Grammophon's clean, present, well-balanced sound provides an ideal environment for the pristine clarity of the performances. Petitbon's recital sets a high standard for Baroque performance and should appeal to fans of music of the period and of remarkable singing.

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