The exemplar of The Art of Coloratura
sings with blazing firepower,
“undeniable vocal velvet
and great beauty,”
with notes flying “as furiously
as snowflakes in a storm
…and her luscious timbre is
like a mug of steaming-hot cocoa”
“setting a new standard
for the interpretation
of Baroque music
and redefining Vivaldi.”
American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux follows her fine discs of arias for Farinelli (Harmonia Mundi) and arias and cantatas by Handel and Hasse (Virgin) with a recital from Vivaldi’s operas. The disc is a delight not just because Genaux is a technically accomplished and warmly communicative artist, but also because the arias themselves are of high quality.
Genaux manages its remarkably wide compass and coloratura with seeming effortlessness…
Those looking for first-class fireworks need look no further.
- Nicholas Anderson, BBC Music Magazine, January 2010
Is there something in the water? It’s the only explanation I can think of for our current glut of Baroque supermezzos who can sing faster, higher and wilder than ever before. Cecilia Bartoli may have started the trend, but hot on her heels comes the astonishing Vivica Genaux. I listened to several of these tracks of hemidemisemiquaver, tightrope tricks with my jaw on the floor. Sensational scales, unbelievable arpeggios, and terrific trills all tumble one after the other – and her rich, rounded, even voice is a thing of beauty, too. It’s not exactly an emotionally complex disc – but with stunts like this, I’m not complaining.
-Warwick Thompson, Classic FM Magazine, January 10, 2010
The 21st century’s first decade is ending with a plethora of enterprising, accomplished diva discs that are driving the recording industry with lavish packaging, healthy sales, and often repertoire that nobody has heard of, much less heard.
It’s a golden age of deep repertoire exploration and high-velocity coloratura – singers who put out more notes per second than nearly anybody in recorded memory.
The castrato discs are musts – Genaux with her velvety, warm tone…
-David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 3, 2010
Vivica Genaux is no ordinary singer. Is it because of her atypical career path, which took her from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Venice? Or the incredibly virtuosity of her mezzo voice, which doesn’t hesitate to flirt with the pyrotechnical arias of Baroque Italy? Still, after her Grammy nomination in 2002, her success shows no sign of slowing – no more than does the excellence of her vocal technique, probably inherited in part from the demands that the higher latitudes impose on singers. Her latest disc, Pyrotechnics: Vivaldi Opera Arias (Virgin Classics), in which she raises bright colors, in concert with the breathtaking Fabio Biondi at the baton, is the proof of that.
-Thierry Hilleriteau, Figaroscope, December 13, 2009
…[Vivica Genaux’s] vocal instrument brings a totally relaxed expressivity, fluid throughout the register…and offers undeniable vocal velvet and often great beauty…
The passion of Fabio Biondi’s Europa Galante seems to give Vivica Genaux a real jolt. In a perfect symbiosis with the orchestra, she puts on a display of vocal agility that measures up in every way to that of her famous colleague.
In Vivaldi, Vivica Genaux seems to have found an interpretive niche perfectly suited to her voice. She sings these arias while giving the impression of drawing real pleasure from them…a communicative pleasure that nothing can resist
- Jacques Schmitt, ResMusica.com, December 29, 2009
Music 2009: The Discs You Should Have Heard, But Didn’t:
Every year, musicians release material that, for whatever reason, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We….unearth a few unpolished gems.
Vivica Genaux, whose chocolaty alto and incendiary coloratura reminds [one] of Cecilia Bartoli, is a current favourite for singing those near-impossible castrato arias that gave 18th-century opera its unique appeal.
- Elissa Poole, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), December 28, 2009
This new CD shows Alaska’s most famous opera singer setting a new international standard for the interpretation of baroque music and redefining Vivaldi. Genaux is now at her full vocal power, as fast and accurate as a fencer, soaring like a jet with afterburners blazing and thrillingly accompanied by sensational violinist Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante ensemble.
- Gretchen Weiss, Anchorage Daily News, December 25, 2009
Since [Vivica Genaux ] is well known for her ability to sing the most fiendishly difficult coloratura with seeming ease, recording Vivaldi makes a great deal of sense. She can sing arias that have rarely, if ever, been recorded and present them to an audience that is hungry for new material.”
The aria [from Catone in Utica] has huge intervals which Genaux manages readily and during which her voice retains its beauty of timbre. In ‘Nella foresta’, Emilia laments her misfortune with a relatively simple exposition that allows the singer to utilize her darkest jewel-like colorings.[In the aria from Semiramide] the singer is proclaiming strength of heart in defeat. You can feel the character’s dignity in Genaux’s interpretation.
Genaux’s diction is excellent and even with all the fioriture, runs and trills, her words are understandable throughout.
With the utmost in technical assurance, Genaux sings a tour de force of rapid fire passages in Griselda’s ‘Agitata da due venti’ without any apparent loss of breath.
‘Il labbro ti lusinga’ offers a bit of calm and a beautiful melody augmented by simple decoration of its graceful line. This piece lets the genuine beauty of the mezzo voice be heard completely unfettered. ‘Vibro il ferro’, from the 1727 opera Ipermestra, again brings us back to the land of pyrotechnics and they are incredible here. Some of Genaux’s most resonant tones are quite low. Most mezzos tend to lose resonance as they descend the scale, but she even gains it at times.[‘Ricordate che sei regina’ from Farnace] is a place for the artist to show the world the extent of her virtuosity. Genaux gives us a large helping of ornamentation that may take several hearings to completely encompass.
- Maria Nockin, Music & Vision (www.mvdaily.com), December 23, 2009
Pyrotechnics is the latest album from mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who last week brought a selection of these arias to a concert here in Paris…the album gathers a sampling of arias from operas by Antonio Vivaldi, and the ensemble Europa Galante, conducted by Fabio Biondi, joins the singer. Right off the bat they announce that this is not going to be another ‘Pale-White, or Nymphs and Shepherds’, touch-it-with-a-tweezer Early Music performance: Biondi elicits polished fluidity from his players, and Vivica throws herself into each dramatic situation.
The notes fly as furiously as snowflakes in a storm…and her luscious timbre is like a mug of steaming-hot cocoa. The results are exciting, even festive…
- William V. Madison, BILLEVESÉES, December 21, 2009
As the title suggests, Genaux’s performances are incendiary, a dazzling display of vocal virtuosity in service to a composer she reveres.
Genaux is special for her chiseled articulations and velvety, honey-colored tone. Vowel sounds are alive with nuance, like wind-pushed ripples across a clear pond. Consonants purr and bite. Vivaldi’s melodies are by nature balanced, but her phrasing unspools in long, poetic arches and not in preformed stanzas.
- Chris Shull, Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, TX), December 17, 2009
Logically and legitimately, the singer throws all her might into a Vivaldi album, based on a unique concept, a hymn to virtuosity. This agility has become, since the successful recording Arias for Farinelli with the absolute complicity of Jacobs, her stock in trade.
Vivica Genaux owes much to Vivaldi, in which her vocalizing and her androgyny find a multitude of uses tailor-made for her…this disc is a success and will delight not only the singer’s admirers, but also lovers of explosive singing.
Communicative energy, an obvious complicity in musical vision between conductor and singer, and immediate pleasure from the start of this recording, await the listener…
Vivica Genaux offers us a quite lovely portrait of her generous art.
- Philippe Ponthir, Forumopera.com, December 13, 2009
The recording showcases Genaux’s ample gifts in a collection of thirteen opera arias, some recorded for the first time, all revolving around the art of coloratura as a means of expression. Genaux delivers with such gusto, bravura and poise the recording is a joy to listen to.
Vivica Genaux is the perfect example of an artist who can navigate both sides of the divide [between a precious early-music delivery and a more full-blooded, Romantic approach]. She does not adopt a different sound for when she sings Rossini or Vivaldi.
Right away the voice grabs you with its evenness and accuracy in passage work…coming at you fast and furious. Vivica more than singing it conquers it by means of great articulation and expression alone.
With other artists we marvel at what they can do with the music, how fast it can be sung, how difficult the music is and [how] accurate their articulation is. In this recording we marvel with Vivica at how expressive this music can be in the hands of a musician ready to make these arias something deeper than just pyrotechnics. The recording triumphs because in spite of being called Pyrotechnics, it delivers both the pyrotechnics and the emotion in equal portions.
- Lindoro Almaviva, canbelto.wordpress.com, December 13, 2009
Ms. Genaux doesn’t make any excuses about the title, Pyrotechnics. She belts out the music with fireworks, infallible technique, and faultless Italian. Alaskan-born, Ms. Genaux lives in Venice, and has obviously soaked up the feeling and magic of the opera of that great city.
She begins with the most astonishing show of all, a work which should be allegro molto, but is conducted by Fabio Biondi with a prestissimo tempo, sending Ms. Genaux up to high C down to the lowest mezzo reaches without a stop.
In her ‘Agitata da due venti’, Ms. Genaux is our typical vestal virgin, resisting advances with the crazy acrobatics that would drive any amorous shepherd mad with desire.
Much as I would like to say that Ms. Genaux’s performance is breathtaking, I couldn’t hear a single breath that she ever took. This was singing with force, emotion, passion, and for a few rare moments, the beauty of Vivaldi as a born melody-maker.
- Harry Rolnick, Concertonet.com, December 8, 2009
Vivica Genaux and Vivaldi both have names that must have something to do with vivacity. Both of them live up to their names with this arresting, fascinating music. Genaux tackles the first, in a blisteringly fast aria with unflagging gusto and virtuosity…In contrast, an aria from Vivaldi’s Semiramide draws you in with its dramatic pulse and suspense.
It would get to be a bit much, were not the music’s joy so irresistible. It’s fun just to marvel at Genaux’s voice, which has tremendous expression and a kind of ‘Coffee Rich’ smoothness.
- Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News, December 7, 2009
Both mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux and violinist/conductor Fabio Biondi have been in the forefront of this Vivaldi renaissance, joining forces for a complete Bajazet as well as Alessandro Scarlatti’s La santissima Trinità. Pyrotechnics, the team’s new CD (released by EMI/Virgin Classics) focuses on Vivaldi’s most vertiginous coloratura arias…
Genaux is squarely in her element and this music fits her instrument like a glove. Although she labels herself a mezzo-soprano, her powerful, sinewy timbre sounds more like a contralto to my ears. Armed with an extremely clean, yet energetic and vigorous agility, the Alaskan singer overcomes the infinite difficulties of Baroque singing with amazing nonchalance and aplomb, demonstrating whatcoloratura di forza really means.”
In a few succinct words, this CD is a valuable, exhilarating addition to the growing number of vocal Baroque recordings. Listening to it is pure pleasure, not a sacrificium!
- Ercole Farnese, Parterre.com, December 5, 2009
VIVICA GENAUX ROCKS VIVALDI IN PYROTECHNICS:
Opera lovers, get your knees used to bowing down now, for when Vivica Genaux’s new album of virtuosic Vivaldi arias ‘drops’ December 8 you are going to want to as well. I have been listening to the album on Virgin Classics on an advance for a few days now and I am floored…this showcases former Pittsburgher (and Claudia Pinza protégé) Genaux’s talents and technique just like her breakout album Arias for Farinelli did. But this may be better, as she has matured artistically since then and what you hear is powerful indeed…
- Andrew Druckenbrod, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 3, 2009
Virgin Classics has placed winning bets on divas this fall. Four new albums show off red-hot musical properties in spectacular form. All earn ( out of 4):
Vivica Genaux Pyrotechnics: Baroque opera is hot these days – and even hotter when sung by a firebrand like U.S. mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux. Her dusky voice has incredible power, range and nimbleness that suits the technical demands of arias by Vivaldi. This is a nicely layered best-of selection of 13 pieces nicely accompanied by Fabio Biondi and period-instrument ensemble Europa Galante.”
- John Terauds, Toronto Star, December 1, 2009
Vivica Genaux is getting ready to sing Vivaldi arias at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées…with Fabio Biondi’s Europa Galante. We know, since Bajazet in 2006, that the mezzo-soprano from Alaska is a great interpreter of Baroque repertory. Now she’s recorded a virtuoso album of a dozen arias by the “Red Priest,” each one as flamboyant as the others.
Ornamentation and vocalises abound everywhere, taking away your breath (but not hers!). Thrilling!
- Jacques Fueschl, La Marseillaise, November 29, 2009
HEADLINE: The Very Best of the Fall Opera Season:
Two great mezzos released gorgeous albums: Vivica Genaux doing Vivaldi arias and Joyce DiDonato with Rossini.
- Zachary Woolfe, New York Observer, December 31, 2009
½ (out of 5)
Firmly established as a specialist in Baroque music, Vivica Genaux has repeatedly stunned her listeners with jaw-dropping renditions of the most hair-raisingly difficult coloratura music.
On that disc [‘Arias for Farinelli’], she collaborated with René Jacobs to offer some of the most impressively virtuosic singing I have ever heard.
…it was Genaux who – perhaps for the first time – truly demonstrated something similar to the technical arsenal for which the castrati were so famously admired.
Pyrotechnics is another triumphant showcase for one of the most accomplished vocal technicians of our times.”
Genaux jumps in with all guns firing, pinning the listener to his seat in utter disbelief.
Frankly, I was so disbelieving that I stopped and re-started from the beginning three or four times before I made it through the entire aria [‘Come in vano il mare irato’ from Catone in Utica].
Genaux offers chameleonic dynamic variations and immaculate control of phrasing, along with superb diction, allowing us to understand every word of the text.
Genaux’s most remarkable asset is her ability to vividly convey the emotional underpinnings of the notes on the page, whether they are frightfully fast or languorously slow.
… her skill in molding her voice to meet every conceivable vocal challenge is stunning.
This disc is a required purchase for all fans of Vivaldi, Genaux, and/or great singing combined with scholarship: what a fantastic way to start the New Year!
- David Laviska, MusicalCriticism.com, January 11, 2010