Act I Arminio
By Vivica Genaux
Today’s Banger comes courtesy of American mezzo, Vivica Genaux. Genaux is an interesting study in this repertoire for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this was her first Baroque opera but she isn’t a Baroque specialist. Instead, she is a very versatile singer who sounds at home in whatever repertoire she chooses to sing. Her repertoire currently consists of around thirty roles (mainly trouser roles. Par for the course for a mezzo, of course) which span much of the operatic canon. Impressive.
In this, her debut Handel opera, she takes the lead role of Arminio and distinguishes herself, despite possessing a skilful coloratura, by restraint, taste and sound judgment. She allows the beauty of Handel’s melody to blossom, while the chord changes really emphasise the tragic dignity of the aria. Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco are absolutely on-point and the tempi are perfect. Lovely stuff indeed.
Your choice of recording is easy, given there are only three. My preference, as always, is for Curtis wherever possible, who respects Handel’s practice of casting women when castrati are unavailable. Thankfully, they’re an extinct breed! The consensus is that the timbre and range of a modern mezzo, or contralto, is much closer to that of Baroque castrati than today’s male countertenors. If, however, your preference is for a countertenor, then Petrou’s 2016 recording with Max Emanuel Cenčić in the lead role is the obvious choice.