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Vincenzo Capezzuto: “Gondola”

spacer Venetian barcaroles to accompany Donna Leon’s book of the same name [CD is not sold separately]. With Bartoli; Il Pomo d’Oro, Minasi. Atlantic Monthly Press

Recordings Gondola lg 415

Crime novelist, music patron and long-time resident of Venice, Donna Leon presents a delightful look at the gondola as cultural icon, marvel of construction and object of romance and mystery in a new publication from Atlantic Monthly Press. Accompanying the book is a CD featuring anonymous barcaroles and gondolier songs from the eighteenth-century delivered with charming immediacy by singer Vincenzo Capezzuto and the excellent period instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, under the direction of violinist Riccardo Minasi.

Capezzuto’s genderless pop voice conveys every emotion from joy to melancholy with ease, while his graceful phrasing is at once expressive and insinuating. Various ages, accents, comic voices and dialects are dispatched with commedia dell’arte skill. In “Mai se patisce freddo” Capezzuto whispers like a mischievous old man, “You’ll never feel cold at night / With a woman to hold you tight … When I’m frozen as a bear / I keep one always near.” He pouts and shouts through “Molti rogna,” describing spendthrift men who claim they have holes in their purses, and has such fun with “Madam carissima” you’ll want to dance along with the minuet lesson described in the short text.

The obviously comic songs are a cinch for such an imaginative and versatile performer, whether presenting a hilarious music lesson in the solfeggio song, “Se imparar la vuol patrona” or muddling through the local dialect as a baffled foreigner in the silly love-song “Per mi aver Cattina amor,” with its “tarapatà tà tà tà” refrain.

For the melancholy “Cara la mia Ninetta” Capezzuto’s begins in a high, plangent tone, then turns naughty with improvised asides, yet his natural expressivity enhances pieces so simple and repetitious they would baffle a classical singer. He brings a youthful sincerity to the graceful “Tanti dise,” with its admission that the singer’s girlfriend is actually not particularly beautiful at all, and shows a sweet individuality in the phrasing of the unpretentious “Farev’ la ritrosetta” (You Play the Shy One). The still popular “La biondina in gondoletta,” about a girl who falls asleep in a gently rocking gondola, is delivered in an adorable girlish falsetto, with subtly different readings each time of the line “from time to time I woke her up,” and concluding with an insouciant whistle.

Instrumental sonatas in gallant style by the little known Domenico Gallo, Pietro Baldassare and Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello, as well as a serene minuet by violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini set a tone of leisurely listening, as if the sounds wafted down from a nobleman’s salon to the ears of lovers on a moonlit canal. The instrumentalists of Il Pomo d’Oro play with inventive skill, lively articulation and sweet tone, and Minasi’s arrangements, featuring cornetto, guitar, mandolin, harpsichord and strings, are spot on.

In a bonus track Cecilia Bartoli coos “Mi credeva d’esser sola” with her customary delicacy and allure but, alas, after an hour of the utterly delightful and captivating Capezzuto her sugary rendition sounds contrived. spacer 

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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