The idea of recreating an accademia musicale (private concert) at the home of Roman artist/patron Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723 and putting on works that might have been played at such an event is an intriguing one. Add to that that we were promised caricatures; Ghezzi being a noted pioneer of the form. Marco Cera, who conceived the show, seemed to be onto a good thing.
What we actually got wasn’t exactly what I expected. There were the musicians, including noted baroque soprano Roberta Invernizzi, impersonating Ghezzi’s guests; from Vivaldi to Farinelli, with Cera himself as Ghezzi. But there was also Ghezzi’s servant, played as Harlequin, acted by Dino Gonçalves. The show was heavy on Harlequin’s cheeky chappy clowning which was, as the lemur put it, like “watching Jerry Lewis channelling Roger Rabbit”. Not really my thing.
Rival Queens is a collaboration between Tafelmusik and Isabel Bayrakdarian showcasing music written for Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni; star divas of the 18th century who fought out a bitter rivalry on stage in London in 1726-28. The great composers of the sage, most notably Handel, all composed for them and wrote works that brought out their respective, and quite contrasted, strengths.
In the first half of the program Bayrakdarian focused on works for Bordoni. There were arias from Handel’s Alessandro (one of the works both divas performed in), Bononcini’s Astianatte and Hasse’s Cajo Fabricio. These are pieces requiring extremely secure technique. They lie fairly low in the soprano range (maybe modern mezzo territory) but have long, long, intricate coloratura runs which Bayrakdarian navigated with apparent ease. The arias were rounded out with orchestral pieces by Handel and Zelenka.