Performances of baroque music, let alone Vivaldi operas , are an extremely rare occurrence in Greece. This is why a concert performance of one of Vivaldi’s great operatic masterpieces “Orlando Furioso” was such an important event, especially when conducted by Yiorgos Petrou one of the most charismatic baroque (and not only) conductor of our time, and of the Armonia Atenea Orchestra.
Petrou had under his baton an array of specialist singers, all dedicated to baroque music.
    The title role was sung by Nicholas Tamagna, one of the most accomplished counter tenor I have heard. His voice is supple, yet dramatic when needed, which easily handles the coloratura passages of the score. Above all he really has a deep feeling and understanding of the music he sings, something that was an underlying element throughout his performance, demonstrating as well his acting abilities, how I would love to have seen him in a fully staged performance of the piece. His rendition of his big aria “sorge l’irato nembo, was perfection , but where his vocal and dramatic abilities really shone , were at Orlando’s mad scene were he really excelled both vocally and dramatically. He is a model Orlando, and I hope that he will soon return to sing here again.
P.S I loved the jacket…
    Mary Elen Nesi sung the role of Alcina with her usual musicality, dramatically aloof, but with many poetic moments.She is an expert in this kind of music having made a well deserved International career, and many recordings in her arsenal. 
Mirsini Margariti (who had a very bad cold the day of the performance) was an astonishing Angelica. I must say that I heard her voice in great form, with crystal clear notes, a real joy to the ear, which goes to say a lot about her impeccable technique.
    I liked a lot the voice of Sonja Runje, a young healthy voice, which I felt she somehow kept it back, I think that she has great top notes which she needs to display more freely. Her singing was impeccable with beautiful phrases and lyric moments.
    From the moment David DQ Lee open his mouth , I was blown away. Rarely have I heard, if at all, such a beautyful male soprano voice. The accuracy of his singing , his detailed attention to every nuance of the music, was a real lesson in singing. His rendition of “sol da te mio dolce ardor” (accompanied in the flute by the excellent Zaharias Tarpagos), brought tears to my eyes. He never faulted for a moment and delivered an absolutely unique performance.
    Marita Paparizou, who sung the role of Medoro, ( in 2003 she sung the title role at the Greek National Opera ) , put the missing link that is so often missing in performances of Baroque Operas, especially those of Vivaldi and Haendel, as she amply demonstrated in her CD “Vivaldi ma non solo” with the great exponent of Vivaldi’s music , Maestro Claudio Scimone, to whom by the way we owe the revival of Orlando Furioso, and who’s recording of the opera remains in my mind the definitive recording of the piece.
  Contralto voices are a perfect fit for Vivaldi’s stage works. The role of Medoro was sung originally by the “Contralto” Castrato Casimiro Pignotti, and if one sees the original score, the roles of Alcina, Bradamante, Medoro and Ruggiero, which is four out of the six female voices used, one can realize the importance of the real contralto voice in this opera, such as M.Paparizou possess, a voice that is very rarely found today since it’s range is between below middle C to the second F above middle C , and at some cases some voices are able to reach the D below middle C or the second B flat above middle C. According to some musicologists the Contralto voice can be divided in three types, Coloratura, Lyric and Dramatic.Roles such as Cenerentola, Dona del Lago, Arsace, Rosina, Rosmira in Haendel’s Partenope, Tancredi, Ulrica, Orfeo (Gluck), Orsini (Lucrezia Borgia), Maddalena (Rigoletto) Italiana in Algeri, Margrete (Wozzeck), and many other operas are scored for Contralto voices.
 M.Paparizou’s performance was therefore a real treat, since one can rarely come across such voices in performances. She sung with an exceptional agility and ease through the difficult coloratura passages of her big aria “Rompo i ceppi” demonstrating her specialty for this music. It was a real joy to hear such a rare and accomplished voice with such effortlessly produced top and low notes which reached a low E.
   The young baritone Marios Sarantidis, sung the role of Astolfo with poise and a beautiful ringing voice, with excellent phrasing and sensitivity. His voice suits perfectly the music of Vivaldi, it is supple and noble.
  Yiorgos Petrou music direction produced a lush and strong sound from the Orchestra which is by now familiar with this repertoire, since it has travelled all over the world with it. His conducting was dramatic, supple, and lyrical surfacing all the emotions of the score. It was a real joy to listen to such an accomplished performance one didn’t really want the performance to end. A well deserved warm applause at the end, and what in my mind was more important, we all came out of the Concert Hall happy and elated, isn’t that after all what music is all about ?