What the critics said…
“For Vivica Genaux, I am on my knees!”
A Relative Newcomer Makes Her Mark
Those who can’t get to the New York State Theater should pick up her recent CD from Virgin Classics. On it she sings arias of Handel and Hasse.
Hasse? Yeah, good question: He was a contemporary of Handel who, though German, inclined Italian (even as Handel, though German, inclined English … and Italian). It was Hasse who, on hearing an early Mozart opera — “Ascanio in Alba” — made the immortal remark,”This boy will cause us all to be forgotten.”
Ms. Genaux cleans up in both Handel and Hasse. Staking out Marilyn Horne territory, she begins with Handel’s “Fammi combattere,” from “Orlando.” And she sings it smashingly. If Ms. Genaux were an instrumentalist, we’d call her a virtuoso. Her technique is assured, unencumbered, almost carefree. (Of course, this is a recording — we must check out the real thing.) Her ornamentation is both imaginative and appropriate.
The entire CD conforms to a very high standard. I might say, too, that Ms. Genaux has a surprising, exciting upper register. Really, is there anything more thrilling in music — certainly vocal music — than a mezzo’s high notes? Neither a soprano’s nor anyone else’s can match them, somehow.
Accompanying Ms. Genaux is the worthy French-Canadian group Les Violons du Roy, conducted by their founder, Bernard Labadie. New York had a taste of them when they came to Zankel Hall last February with Magdalena Kozÿená, the Czech mezzo. With Ms. Genaux, they are vibrant, incisive, and completely committed. This is not Baroque wallpaper, thank goodness.
Opera freaks will perhaps appreciate the following, insidery line: For Vivica Genaux, I am “sur mes genoux … ” (That is, I am “on my knees,” borrowing from the first words of a once famous Meyerbeer aria.)
-Jay Nordlinger, www.nysun.com, September 12, 2006
Genaux is especially dazzling in this respect [whether caressing a long-lined lyrical phrase or launching a cascade of virtuoso vocal fireworks], more than confirmed by her spectacular new Handel recital just released on Virgin Classics.”
- Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, October 2, 2006
Alaska-born mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux’s newest CD, “Arias”, featuring thirteen works of Handel and Hasse is going to pique the interest a lot of opera lovers who may not fashion themselves as fans of the Baroque style of music. This will happen for three reasons: first, Ms. Genaux has a fantastic and agile voice that exemplifies a level of technical virtuosity that is truly hypnotic in the manner of its pure sound and the precise rhythmic delivery; second, the orchestration throughout this recording from the chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy is full and resonant, and complimentary to the singer – never pushy, never weak, just right; lastly, the selection of the titles performed is pleasing to the ear, which when joined with a marvelous voice as we have here, you end up with a winner on all counts – and this is coming from someone who is not big a fan of the Baroque style.
Interestingly, I found this CD pleasing from the very opening notes of Handel’s “Orlando” (Fammi combattere mostri e tifei), and never lost interest, right to the very end. It is the comfortable resonance of Ms. Genaux’s voice, a smooth, effortless mezzo sound (although we know from the way her voice maneuvers scales and around the tricky sixteenths etc, that she only makes it seem effortless) that will captivate and draw the listener into the style and period of music which is her forte.
Ms. Genaux’s repertoire encompasses twenty-nine roles, twenty-one of which are trouser parts. She is also known for her bel canto repertoire of Rossini favorites: Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Angelina in La Cenerentola, and the feisty Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri. While this writer has criticized the use of women in trouser roles on stage, the mezzo voice is ideally suited for trouser roles on CD, and no one captures the vocal beauty or flawless manner of delivery embedded in the Baroque period of writing better than Vivica Genaux does in this, her latest release. Sit back and enjoy as I did.
- OperaOnline.us, September 2006
Genaux presents three numbers from Hasse’s Arminio, first performed in 1745, as well as his cantata La Scusa, projecting them vividly with well chosen variations of vocal colour that make the best use of her characterful lower register.
- Andrew Clements, The Guardian, October 6, 2006
Alaska-born mezzo soprano Vivica Genaux has captivated opera audiences with beguiling portrayals of Rossini’s leading ladies, especially as Cinderella and as Rosina from The Barber of Seville. (She’ll sing Rosina with Dallas Opera in December.)
Genaux is also celebrated for her performances of heroes and heroines in Baroque opera. She opened the season in George Frideric Handel’s Semele at New York City Opera in September, performances that coincided with the release of her fourth solo CD, which features arias from operas and cantatas by Handel and Baroque-era contemporary Johann Adolf Hasse.
These pieces – including arias from Handel’s operas Orlando and Alcina and from Hasse’s Arminio – show off Genaux’s lively facility and gracious artistry.
There is joy in her singing, and jaw-dropping vocal virtuosity. An aura of elegance – and honest, forthright emotions – draws listeners deep into the music.
Even slower numbers brim with rhythmic vitality. The crystalline instrumentation on these Baroque gems showcases an American singer at her finest.
- Chris Shull, Wichita Eagle, October 15, 2006