Chen Reiss: "Liaisons"
Arias by Cimarosa, Haydn, Mozart, Salieri. L'Arte del Mondo, Ehrhardt. Texts and translations. Onyx 4068
Young, attractive onstage and highly musical, Israeli soprano Chen Reiss offers arias on her new CD by Cimarosa, Haydn, Mozart and Salieri — composers whose careers (and lives) were intertwined at the intrigue-filled Imperial Court of Vienna.
Reiss opens with the attractive "Tremo, bell'idol mio," from Salieri's 1771 version of Armida. Three Haydn "insert arias" (pieces prima donnas could substitute or add at will in works by whatever composer) stem from the mid-1780s. They are uniformly pretty, upbeat and anodyne. Far more expressive of character and conducive to comic inflections Reiss supplies is the lovely "Perdonate, signor mio," from Il Matrimonio Segreto, the only one of Cimarosa's many operas to have held onto at least a viable place in the repertory well into the twentieth century. The only "standard" arias heard on this recording are Despina's "Una donna a quindici anni" and Susanna's "Deh vieni, non tardar" — both roles that would certainly suit Reiss's gifts. The Nozze di Figaro aria is complemented by the alternate number ("Un moto di gioia") that Mozart himself provided to replace Susanna's earlier "Venite, inginocchiatevi" for a Viennese revival featuring the future creator of Fiordiligi, Adriana Ferrarese del Bene. Other Mozart offerings, all gracefully and brightly voiced, include three pleasant and demanding "insert arias" created for works by Baldassare Galuppi, Carl Phillipp Emanuel Bach and Vicente Martín y Soler — "Voi avete un cor fedele" (1775), "Ah, se in ciel" (1788) and "Chi sa, chi sa, qual sia" (1789). Reiss's voice has the precision of pitch and attack needed for late-eighteenth-century music, along with generally creditable trills and impressive agility: her approach here is quite instrumental.
Her words are intelligently uttered but rather soft-edged: consonants could be sharper, and one enjoys the disc for secure, attractive vocalism rather than for deep textual insights. For example, her Despina lightly ornaments her aria's coda but fails to vary in inflection the repeated voicings of "Saper mentire."
Cologne-born conductor Werner Ehrhardt directed his native city's esteemed Concerto Köln from 1985 until 2005. Here he leads (with conviction and stylistic savvy) the "Historically Informed Performance" group he founded in 2004, L'Arte del Mondo. As usual on CDs billed as containing "arias," two Sinfonias are in fact included (from Il Matrimonio Segreto and Salieri's La Scuola de' Gelosi), accounting for nine minutes of this fifty-six-minute-long release.
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