Listeners needn’t worry, the publicity assures us: Baroque specialist Simone Kermes might be singing bel canto but she hasn’t changed voice type. Nor would she need to. There’s no reason why Kermes’ high flying soprano shouldn’t negotiate the trills and roulades of Bellini and Rossini just as skilfully as those of Handel. In terms of clarity and accuracy, she’s in excellent form here, and those who’ve seen her wacky live performances on YouTube will be either relieved or disappointed (according to taste) to discover her in more straight-laced mode.
Curiously she sings these arias utterly without vibrato. This might be effective in short doses but applied across the board, it drains much of the life from this spirited music. Make no mistake, Kermes makes a beautiful sound; it just doesn’t ring true to the repertoire, and while she succeeds to an extent in illustrating the stylistic links between Baroque and bel canto, singing Rossini’s Giusto ciel like a piece of lost Pergolesi doesn’t really prove anything. Still, there’s some spectacular vocal showmanship here, including an electrifying Mercadante rarity and two icily precise Queen of the Night arias, and when Monteverdi finally arrives, so does an audible sense of homecoming.
Concerto Köln and Christoph-Mathias Mueller are as sprightly as Kermes herself. For adventurous programming she can’t be faulted, but she’s made more successful discs than this.