Porpora: Germanico in Germania

Max Emanuel Cencic, Julia Lezhneva, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Juan Sancho, Dilyara Idrisova, Hasnaa Bennani, Capella Cracoviensis, Jan Tomasz Adamus
218:18 (3CDs in a box)
Decca 483 1523

The recent ‘rediscovery’ of Porpora’s operatic oeuvre has been one of the major events in the world of early opera in recent years. Fortunately, it has been timed to coincide with spectacular developments in the technique of male alto singers, allowing them to do justice to Porpora’s demanding castrato roles. At the centre of this latest project is the male alto, Max Emanuel Cencic, a remarkable singer who has previously impressed with his accounts of music written for the castrato Senesino and who here takes on a role first taken by the celebrity alto castrato Domenico Annibali. Porpora was a singing teacher as well as a composer and so his compositions for voice are intentionally highly technically demanding, and from his first dramatic appearance, Cencic shows that he is the full master of all the vocal fireworks that Porpora’s original virtuosi displayed. Before this, however, the Capella Cracoviensis replete with brass and woodwind instruments have provided stunning accounts of Porpora’s showy instrumental writing, while a superb cast have ensured that all the characters are powerfully represented musically. Particularly fine is Julia Lezhneva as Ersinda whose blizzards of passaggi would have made even Porpora’s jaw drop. She sings with such enormous musicality and assurance, that her remarkable technique seems almost incidental. But this is a cast where virtuoso singers are just lining up to show off their technical prowess and Hasnaa Bennani possesses a similar blend of interpretive talent and stunning technical assurance. The exploration of the world of Neapolitan Baroque opera has led to several major eye-opening discoveries, and this has the feel of another one. With his strategic use of wind instruments, Porpora’s scores are automatically more colourful than most of this period, and when you add to this the technical fireworks he writes into his vocal lines he more than deserves the prominent place he is beginning to be restored to in the pantheon of early opera.

D. James Ross

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