A new release from Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante with a stellar cast. Some reservations though for Villazon in this baroque style. But the rest of the cast is among the best!
Here a review from www.amazon.com where you also can buy it. The recording is also on Spotify for all you downloaders!
Vivaldi's 1723 opera "Ercole sul Termodonte", his first to be performed in Rome, was a huge hit, pulling off what Oxford Professor of Music Reinhard Strohm described as "an aesthetic coup d'état in Roman opera".
Director Fabio Biondi has attempted a reconstruction from the surviving (complete) libretto, along with various musical manuscripts scattered across Europe. He supplies full analytical notes concerning the reconstruction in the accompanying booklet. Essentially much of what we have here is a modern creation cobbled together by Biondi, filling in the gaps; normally this kind of thing, knowing that it's not quite the real deal, would bother me a little when listening, but the sheer beauty of this recording wipes away such worries.
Rolando Villazón (Ercole) for me personally has the kind of voice which belongs more properly to a later age, of Rossini and Verdi; but I can forgive this choice given the rest of the cast.
As the Amazons: Vivica Geneaux (mezzo, Antiope) is an authoritative queen; Joyce DiDonato (mezzo, Ippolita) is outstanding as a fearsome warrior princess falling in love with Teseo, delivering tender love songs; the lovely Patrizia Ciofi (soprano, Orizia) is sadly a bit underutilised in terms of the number of arias she gets; Diana Damrau (soprano, Martesia) is delightful but maybe lacks a slight edge at times.
Playing Ercole's Greek companions: Romina Basso (Teseo), billed here as a mezzo, delivers real depth like a contralto, a solid performance in the trouser role and for me probably the standout performer of this set; Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor, Alceste) is just gorgeous as always and probably my favourite performer of the moment; Topi Lehtipuu (tenor, Telamone) is more like my idea of a baroque tenor though seems to have a tendency to try to imitate Villazón at times, especially when the two of them converse in the recitative.
Biondi's direction is excellent, the ensemble "Europa Galante" combines beautifully with the vocalists, and the sound in the recording is warm and space filling. The set comes as two discs in cardboard sleeves with sizeable accompanying booklet with notes, synopsis and libretto with translations, in English, French and German, all contained in a hinged cardboard box.