Aureliano in Palmira – Recording Reviews

December 18, 2012

Opera Rara’s autumn 2012 release, Aureliano in Palmira, has received some fantastic reviews. Here’s what the critics have to say:

‘Opera Rara’s performance is a fine one, conducted with stylistic assurance by Maurizio Benini and sung by a good cast, able to rise above the music’s considerable technical challenges to achieve real expressive distinction. In the title role, tenor Kenneth Tarver reminds us of his excellent Rossinian credentials, with a light and airy tone and fluent top register. Spanish mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé is also fluent as Aureliano’s military and amorous rival, Arsace. Scottish soprano Catriona Smith equals her colleagues’ skills as Zenobia.’ – George Hall, BBC Music Magazine

‘The music is very fine, with a minimal amount of secco recitative. Musch of the momentus is generated by triplet figures in the accompaniment. The sheer variety is striking: resolution, love, defiance, supplication are vividly conveyed. There’s a canonic trio and a ‘vaudeville’ finale. There are solos for horn and, in a charming pastoralo chorus, for violin. The LPO play beautifully for Maurizio Benini. Kenneth Tarver makes an accomplished Aurelian, a touch of steel in his tone emphasising his authority. In Zenobia’s aria ‘Là pugnai’, Catriona Smith colours her voice with both assertiveness and wistfulness before dazzling the listener with her coloratura. And the forthright tones of Silvia Tro Santafé are a first-rate substitute for those of the castrato Velluti. The recording is well balanced, with a nice sense of perspective when Zenobia enters in Act 2 at the top of the staircase; and, as always with Opera Rara, the booklet containing the libretto is admirable.’ – Richard Lawrence, Gramophone magazine

‘Opera Rara, as ever, does it proud with excellent engineering and an informative booklet. Maurizio Benini leads an authoritative performance, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra play with style. Kenneth Tarver takes the title role, and his sweetly elegant tenor surmounts its coloratura difficulties with seeming ease. Likewise the travesti role of Arsace (created by the great castrato Velluti) is dispatched with panache and thrilling tone by Silvia Tro Santafé. Catriona Smith’s Zenobia is sweetly sung with some moments of shrillness; but her duets with Tro Santafé are rather delicious highlights of bel canto grace. A rarity worth investigating.’ – Francis Muzzu, Opera Now

‘There is much to be enjoyed here. The two Zenobia-Arsace duets are meltingly beautiful and show how the youthful Rossini was able to crate emotional landscapes that reflected the development of character. There is also stirring and patriotic music, including Aureliano’s cavatina, which begins with a gloriously playe dhorn obbligato. Kenneth Tarver employs his light lyric tenor to great effect in the title role. He tosses off the high-flying role with ease and purity of tone, though one might wish for a bit more vocal heft in his jealous rages. Without question the vocal honours here go to the Arsace, mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé, who contributes a fearless and virtuoso performance that is both firey and passionate, finding many vocal colours and nuances that illuminate character and emotion. Maurizio Benini leads the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a sensitive yet propulsive reading.’ – Henson Keys, Opera News

‘Somehow or other Opera Rara keeps pulling magnificent bel canto singers out of some magic hat. In this polyphonic multinational cast there are well-known and unknown voices; not one is duff. It must seem like a miracle to find a replacement for the soprano cast as Zenobia and then to get as replacement a Scotswoman who is a Kammersängerin of the Stuttgart State Opera. She had to step into the gap late in the day and sings with a firmness of tone and pleasing capacity for characterisation that nearly matches the other two outstanding principals. Of these Kenneth Tarver is a delight. He sings with good unforced open tone and without undue stress to create a full and convincing Aureliano in his many moods. Pleasing as those two are, the biggest surprise, and the biggest success, is the singing and overall performance of the Spanish mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé as Arsace, originally written for a castrato. Her voice is flexible to meet the demands of the coloratura with her vocal centre and lower tones being the best I have heard from a mezzo for some time. Despite some of the quality singers Opera Rara have cast in various recordings over the past few years Santafé is one of the best. She is a singer who in this recording uses her considerable vocal capacities and quality to convey the emotions, drama and characterisation of a role in a manner I have not heard in a young singer for a long time. The recording comes with Opera Rara’s usual lavishly illustrated book, including a complete libretto with an English translation by Jeremy Commons. Add to this an article and synopsis by Richard Osborne.’ – Robert Farr, MusicWeb International