Not yet 30, Polish-born countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński returns with Facce d’Amore (Faces of Love), the follow-up and companion volume to his widely acclaimed debut solo album, Anima Sacra. Yet if, again in the company of researcher Yannis François and period instrument band Il Pomo d’Oro under Maxim Emelyanychev, Orliński has here turned from sacred to profane love, Eros and Agape bind the two, making them all but indistinguishable…
As Orliński suggests, Anima Sacra was “a spiritual journey based on sacred music from the 18th century,” with music by composers such as Nicola Fago, Heinichen, Zelenka and Hasse. But there are fireworks aplenty, as well as soaring arias of transcendent beauty. So are there in this latest release, which like its predecessor includes a number of world premiere recordings (eight, in fact).
James Inverne’s booklet essay with François elaborates. “[The album features] different sides of love – the weeping lover, the one who loves two women, the one who is betrayed, even the abusive lover, and this period of opera [gives] us a melting-pot of different aspects of love… So: Facce d’amore – Faces of Love.”
The journey might be chronological, from Cavalli through Boretti, Bononcini, Alessandro Scarlatti, Handel et al. to Hasse, but the range of love’s hues and seasons – jealousy, despair, hope, joy, passion, cruelty, madness and more – is pervasive, circular and dangerously addictive.
As is the album itself. Opening with Endimione’s song to the moon from Act II of Cavalli’s La Calisto is a master stroke. Gentle seductive tones from singer and instrumentalists alike mesmerise you from the get-go; but it’s the words “The many facets of the silver orb caressing, kissing earth” that recall and resonate so strongly with the album’s title.
Closing with the world premiere recording of Hasse’s Sempre a si vaghi rai from his 1736 opera Orfeo, the role written for Farinelli, is also a masterstroke: fresh, major-keyed and filled with coloratura, it sends you off on a high.
In between – and interspersed by sinfonias which showcase Il Pomo d’Oro’s ability to inject drama into even the humblest musical passage – are more of the promised many faces of love.
Among my other favourites are Bononcini’s Infelice mia costanza from La Costanza non Gradita nel Doppio Amore d’Aminta, first performed in Rome in 1694, the counterpoint of sublime music and excoriating lyrics evoking a siren toxicity that’s hard to resistm, as well as Francesco Bartolomeo Conti’s ferocious Odio, vendetta, amore, Fernando’s aria from Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena (Vienna, 1719). Orliński and Il Pomo d’Oro at their explosive best.