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Prina Donna

In Classical Music, Handel, Opera, Review on January 1, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Review – Arias For Senesino – Sonia Prina & Ensemble Claudiana

Sonia Prina’s recital at Wigmore Hall was one of vocal verve, staggering technique and interpretive eloquence.

Rarely – if ever – have I heard these arias written by Handel for Senesino performed with such gusto, Ms Prina and Ensemble Claudiana imparting a deep love of Handel’s music from start to finish. Indeed Senesino himself must have been a formidably talented singer to have inspired the composer to some of his greatest music.

She reveled in the music, effortlessly capturing the mood and essence of each individual aria and character. She deployed her rich, smooth contralto with unerring musical intelligence, alternating between spinning out line after line of smooth legato with rapid-fire yet precise and beautifully articulated coloratura. And what’s more Ms Prina made ample use of her lower register with thrilling effect which was refreshing considering how many singers think that sometimes excessive use of the highest notes is the best way to ‘nail’ the returning ornamented da capo section.

Her first two arias effectively demonstrated how easily she could switch from the emotional agony of Ombra cara di mia sposa from Radamisto to the anger of Furibondo spira il vento (Partenope). The sense of desolation that she bled into her voice in the first aria contrasted with the swagger in the second.

However the highlight of the first half was the magnificent mad scene from Orlando – Stelle se tu il consenti … Ah Stigie larve. The dramatic intensity of Ms Prina’s performance – particularly Vaghe pupille – was gripping. And clearly she was totally absorbed in her performance as she nearly knocked over one of the music stands.

In the second half it was the majestic Pompe vane … Dove sei (Rodelinda) and Cara sposa from Rinaldo that sealed the deal in terms of this recital being one of the highlights of 2013. The emotional intensity of these two arias was almost suffocating. Rarely has Dove sei sounded both so eloquent and so devastating.

But the remaining arias after the interval – Empio, dirò, tu sei and Vivi tirano – were once again lessons in confident and beautifully delivered fluid coloratura. Again each individual note in every single run clearly and evenly articulated.

Personally I would have loved to have Ms Prina sing another slower as one of her encores as Ms Piau did with great effect when she performed at the venue, but I couldn’t complain when she returned to the stage and sang Venti, turbine, prestate.

And as I have mentioned, Ms Prina was supported throughout by Ensemble Claudiana. Displaying extreme virtuosity throughout, I was amazed by the sonorities that the players produced considering the size of the ensemble. From the overture to Theodora to the Passacaille from his trio sonatas, the colours and dynamic range they produced – not only in the instrumental movements but also the arias as well – would put some larger ensembles to shame.

And a nice touch, Ms Prina have each of the players introduced by name demonstrated how close their creative relationship seems to be.

I’ve not yet purchased the recital disc by Ms Prina and Ensemble Claudiana together with Roberta Invernizzi – Amore e Morte Dell’ Amore – but it’s now definitely on my list. And it’s a shame that this excellent recital has not been saved for posterity on Wigmore Hall’s own label.

But I don’t think anyone will forget Ms Prina’s vocal authority and technical brilliance, verve of performance or simple passion for Handel’s music in a hurry.

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  1. […] closing the year in musical style were Sonia Prina and Ensemble Claudiana at Wigmore Hall. A celebration of the music written by Handel for Senesino, […]

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