Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here’ was
Verona, just one of the Italian cities — Venice, Milan, Pavia, Rome and
Mantua among others — in which Vivaldi had, since the performance of his
opera Ottone in Villa in Vicenza in 1713, built ‘my name and
reputation throughout Europe having composed ninety-four operas’, as he puts
it in another letter, of 1739.

After his death, Vivaldi’s popularity waned; even the perennial concerti
and instrumental works were little-known before the revival of interest in the
composer’s music at the start of the 20th century. In recent
years, that interest has stretched to his operatic oeuvre and around 50 operas
have been rediscovered (some of the 94 mentioned were probably
pasticci); there have been acclaimed performances and recordings by
artists such as Cecilia Bartoli and Europa Galante, and by Roberta Invernizzi
and La Risonanza (directed by Fabio Bonizzoni) who in 2012 released a CD of
arias by Vivaldi (Glossa GCD922901).

This concert at the Wigmore Hall paired Vivaldi with Handel: a sort of
operatic head-to-head. The programme was well-planned: each half focused on the
vocal work of one composer, a selection of arias framing an instrumental work
by the other composer. The arias themselves formed a sequence of contrasting
moods and affekts, almost like movements of a symphony.

Invernizzi’s strengths were immediately on display in the opening aria,
‘Da due venti’ from Vivaldi’s Ercole su’l Termodonte, a fiery
number in which Hippolyte, sister of the Queen of the man-hating Amazons,
despairs in confusion having fallen in love with a man. Utterly committed to
the drama, animated in delivery, Invernizzi has a real feeling for character
and her portrayal of Hippolyte’s distress was visceral and intense. Her
soprano has a thrilling glossiness and radiance; it is an immensely agile and
she used it flamboyantly in the fierce fioiriture and wide leaps which
conjure the ‘sea agitated by two winds’ to which Hippolyte compares her

However, here and throughout the evening, vivid theatrical intensity was
sometimes acquired at the expense of musical accuracy. Invernizzi employed a
wide, weighty vibrato which — whatever one argues about ‘authenticity’
— adversely affected her control of pitch, and upper notes were repeatedly
approached from below. In the slower numbers particularly, she struggled to
shape the line: she tended to slide between notes rather than create a clean
line, and there were some ungainly and distracting swells which tempered her
bright, clean sound with a rather whiny edge. Her manner of performance could
also be diverting: singing from the score in the Vivaldi-focused first half,
Invernizzi whipped through the pages (presumably she was using an orchestral
score rather than a vocal score) at great pace and with extravagant gestures,
creating a great flapping and rustling, particularly as she raced back to the
opening page for the da capo repeat.

‘Ombre vane, ingiusti orrori’ from Griselda was more reliable
and show-cased Invernizzi’s rich tone and vocal intensity. There was an
unearthly quality to the singer’s unaccompanied declamation, ‘Empty shades,
iniquitous horrors’ as Constanza, Griselda’s daughter, expresses her fears,
and also greater fluidity of line; the soprano’s strong, burnished lowered
register was in evidence when Constanza cries in horror at the cruelty of fate.
Problems of intonation and phrasing returned, however, in ‘Se mai senti
spirarti’ from Cantone in Utica, where the tuning of the octave
leaps was often approximate and where there was poor control of line. This is a
ravishing aria of seduction, in which Caesar declares his passion for his
enemy’s daughter, but the evenness and mellowness required were lacking,
which was a pity as the muted violins and lone pizzicato viola of the
accompaniment were deeply atmospheric.

The final Vivaldi aria, ‘Rete, lacci e strali adopra’, from Dorilla
in Tempe
made for a more confident and satisfying conclusion to the first
half of the programme. Invernizzi’s coruscating soprano powerfully captured
Filindo’s anger and frustration as, rejected by Eudamia, he compares his
pursuit to a futile hunt. Here, the coloratura was both vivid and
well-controlled; the soprano raced fierily through the wide-ranging scales,
arpeggios and melismas with heroic fury and brilliance.

My reservations continued after the interval in the three Handel arias
presented. ‘PiangerÚ la sorte mia’ from Guilio Cesare (in which
Cleopatra laments losing both the battle against her brother Tolomeo and her
beloved Caesar) suffered from a mannered emphasis on particular notes which
disrupted the line, affected the tuning and thus weakened the dramatic
intensity — although, as in the Vivaldi pieces heard earlier, the agitated
‘b’ section showed Invernizzi’s suppleness. Rodelinda’s expression of
rhapsodic joy and longing for her husband, ‘Ritorna, o caro’, achieved a
more tender simplicity and refinement. And, Invernizzi came into her own in the
final aria, ‘Da tempeste’ from Guilio Cesare, conjuring great
excitement as Cleopatra celebrates her liberation by Caesar from the clutches
of Tolomeo and anticipates the victory that is sure to follow. Again, the
soprano negotiated the coloratura with impressive agility and athleticism, and
theatrical flair, and she used dynamics judiciously to shape the structure of
the whole. Interestingly, Invernizzi stepped back from the music stand for this
aria and, singing from memory, she seemed altogether more at ease.

La Risonanza, directed with verve and precision by Fabio Bonizzoni, were
exemplary accompanists. Bonizzoni kept the pace pulsing and the strings alert,
and his pounding continuo was invigorating. The players were attentive to every
detail and played, by turns, with tremendous vigour and panache, and with grace
and sensitivity. The string tone in the two instrumental interludes was
beguiling. Handel’s Overture to Rodrigo was full-toned, but still
airy and light, and was enhanced by lovely solos from leader Carlo Lazzaroni.
String flourishes and florid ornaments were meticulously executed in
Vivaldi’s Sinfonia to Dorilla in Tempe.

There were two splendid Vivaldi encores — from Ottone in Villa
and the oratorio Juditha triumphans — in which Invernizzi seemed
more relaxed. In the former, she at last found a floating, pure line of immense
beauty. But, this fine ending to the recital could not quite dispel all my

Claire Seymour

Performers and programme:

Roberta Invernizzi, soprano

La Risonanza: Fabio Bonizzoni (director, harpsichord); Carlo
Lazzaroni, Laura Cavazzuti, Silvia Colli, Claudia Combs, Ulrike Slowik and
Rossella Borsoni (violins); Livia Baldi (viola); Caterina dell’Agnello
(cello); Vanni Moretto (double bass).

Vivaldi: Ercole su’l Termodonte RV710, ‘Da due venti’;
Griselda RV718, ‘Ombre vane, ingiusti orrori’; Handel: Overture
from Rodrigo HWV5; Vivaldi: Catone in Utica RV705, ‘Se mai
senti spirarti sul volto’; Dorilla in Tempe RV709, ‘Rete, lacci e
strali adopra’; Handel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto HWV17 ‘PiangerÚ
la sorte mia’; Vivaldi: Dorilla in Tempe RV709, Sinfonia; Handel:
Rodelinda HWV19, ‘Ritorna, o caro e dolce mio tesoro’; Giulio
Cesare in Egitto
HWV17, ‘Da tempeste il legno infranto’.

Wigmore Hall, London, Tuesday 21st July 2015.

image_description=Roberta Invernizzi [Photo by RibaltaLuce Studio]
product_title=Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall
product_by=A review by Claire Seymour
product_id=Above: Roberta Invernizzi [Photo by RibaltaLuce Studio]