Scarlatti’s La Dirindina, Sinfonias, Sonatas

Review by: John Greene


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Domenico Scarlatti composed La Dirindina as an Intermezzo, or short comic interlude to be performed within his larger, more dramatic opera L’ Ambeto. However, shortly before its premiere in Rome in 1715 it was banned primarily because of Girolamo Gigli’s notoriously risqué libretto (censors and Vatican officials ordered the presses stopped, although a second edition was eventually published). Given how often the aspiring coquette/pupil Dirindina (soprano Marina Bartoli), her wily old music teacher Don Carissimo (baritone Giulio Mastrototaro), and opportunist castrati beau Liscione (tenor Makoto Sakurada) conveniently adjust and readjust their moral whims throughout this fast-paced, nearly 30-minute piece, it’s certainly understandable why the more conservative musical establishment might have found the work objectionable.

What motivated the usually temperate Scarlatti to score Gigli’s text may be somewhat perplexing, yet it’s less so given that his musical contribution is minimal, as if it were simply meant to keep the action rolling. Even in the arias Scarlatti’s musical fabric never veers from its sole perfunctory support of the vocal line.

Also included on the program are a set of sinfonias and violin sonatas, repertoire even more rare than the featured work (this is the fourth recording of La Dirindina on CD). As usual with this exceptional Italian period-instrument ensemble, L’Arte dell’ Arco delivers stylish, engaging, peerless performances throughout. Violin soloist and ensemble director Federico Guglielmo (who also was responsible for preparing the instrumental editions) never fails to thrill here; his execution of the final Allegro of the first, and the second-movement Allegro of the second of the two D minor violin sonatas is especially breathtaking.

CPO’s SACD sound is exceptional, with a natural, thoroughly convincing sense of vocal and instrumental depth and presence. Scarlatti enthusiasts may also be aware of another recently released though somewhat different La Dirindina by the Ars Lyrica Houston (Sono Luminus), an interpretation that I find less favorable. For instance, the producers’ decision to divide the piece with a nearly eight-minute sonata stifles the continuity of the action. I also prefer soprano Bartoli’s more believable youthful timbre to Jamie Barton’s more mature-sounding mezzo. No contest; not only is this CPO performance the one of choice, the disc is worth it for the instrumental gems alone.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: see review

    La Dirindina; Sinfonia III in G major for strings & continuo; Sonata in D minor (K.89/F.50) for violin & continuo; Sinfonia VII in C major for strings & continuo; Sinfonia XV in B-flat major for strings & continuo; Sonata in D minor (K.90/F.51) for violin & continuo; Sinfonia X in G major for strings & continuo
  • CPO - 777 555-2
  • SACD

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