Max Emanuel Cencic and Armonia Atenea | George Petrou
Nicola Porpora: the Master of the Voice
Max Emanuel Cencic’s new programme, [Arias by Nicola Porpora], is the fruit of much research into the music of this maestro of the Neapolitan baroque, a figure whose importance is becoming more and more recognised today. Porpora was born in Naples in 1686, and, though almost an exact contemporary of Handel, his musical life and his compositional style took a very different path from that of his great contemporary, not least because, though famous as a composer, he was equally well-known during his lifetime as a teacher of singers, especially castrati. He taught both Farinelli and his great rival Caffarelli, and his own scores (some 200 surviving vocal works, including over 40 operas) reflect the extraordinary and intimate knowledge he had of the voice as an instrument, and as an expressive purveyor of human emotion. His vocal writing abounds in virtuoso technical difficulty, often, as one might expect, in fast and furious arie di bravura, but his meltingly emotive sostenuto writing has a character all its own, its ornate fioriture being every bit as testing of a singer’s ability as any explosive allegro.
Porpora spent much of his life writing for the great opera houses of Italy, but also visited London for several seasons, working in direct competition with Handel, and having great singers like Farinelli, his fellow castrato Senesino, and the great female soprano, Francesca Cuzzoni, in his company. A prolific composer of great skill and maestro di canto without equal, he outlived both Handel and Bach, ending his days in Vienna, where his last pupil (and valet) was one Franz Josef Haydn.
Like his award-winning recitals disc for DECCA, ROKOKO and ARIE NAPOLETANE (Melómano de oro, Diamant de l’Opéra, Diapason d’or), Max Emanuel Cencic’s [Arias by Nicola Porpora] is an unbeatable combination: first-rate scholarship, world premiere recordings of forgotten masterworks, and an exciting ensemble, Armonia Atenea, directed by George Petrou.