Xavier Sabata debut at Wigmore Hall with Armonia Atenea and George Petrou:
Xavier Sabata was an actor before becoming a singer. That’s why role characterization is one of the strongest points of his performances. London baroque scene was excited about seeing him live at Wigmore Hall: to enjoy not only his beautiful voice but also his acting (yes, even in a recital).
Programme was comprised by arias from his latest recording Catharsis and he was accompanied by the same baroque ensemble that in the recording: Armonia Atenea directed by George Petrou
Things didn’t start so well: Armonia Atenea opened with a wild arrangement of Vivaldi concerto RV157 with the basso as a Jazz bass. When baroque groups like L’Arpeggiata do this kind of jazzy arrangements you can (correctly) argue about their doubtful taste but at least they are technically impeccable. Here it was plain awful, with the a cacophony syncopated string section.
Then Sabata came into scene singing two arias from Orlandini and Conti. We enjoyed the first class characterization and the warm colour of his voice but we were still missing something.
La follia was the next instrumental work. A good idea to warm up the evening. This time, although there was no technical problem Petrou, in his aim to be spectacular, did a quite aggressive version. Extreme dynamics with violent attacks can sound spectacular but I think it was way too much.
This was the turning point of the night: Sabata came back into scene to sing Torri aria Vorresti col tuo pianto. This time the voice was full of intensity with the middle zone back in shape. Perfect coloratura keeping a wonderful phrasing.
And then the first stunning moment of the recial: Vivaldi Gelido in ogni vena from Farnace. We all learned about this dramatic aria from Cecilia Bartoli performance in her Vivaldi Album. Well, forget about it. Forget also Sabata own recording. Live version was 3 times better. Impressive, shocking, terrifying. We felt the frozen blood the aria talk about as we were petrified in our seats listening to the music and feeling the emotions Sabata was expressing like no one else I have seen. WOW
After the intermission time for Handel and Hasse: two laconic and weeping arias to enrich the collection of sensations we were having. Again, extreme beauty sensitiveness were the key in these wonderful performances.
The next instrumental piece was not a routine one: Vivaldi mandolin concerto RV425 demands a very skillful soloist. The Armonia Atenea theorbo player resulted this skillful soloist. And opposite to La follia this performance was full of the delicacy that the work requires, with a perfect balance between all the sound layers. Very well done.
Two final arias of the programme: from Ariosti the slow and beautiful Voi d’un figlio tanto misero and from Orlandini Già mi sembra al carro avvinto another tour de force full of vocal pyrotechnics that Sabata solved brilliantly.
The most beautiful moment of the night came with the first encore, a contemporary Greek song based upon a text by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Deeply emotive and touching. After the insistence of the applause they did another encore: Delizie e Contenti from Cavalli that was a like a nice blow of fresh air allowing us to go home really happy.
At then end, what a success!