This fabulous live concert of Italian madrigals, arias and cantatas was recorded at Melbourne Recital Centre in 2015. I was fortunate enough to hear the same programme a week earlier at Perth Festival. The seventh edition of the academy for emerging singers that is Le Jardin des Voix focuses on Italian music, hence In an Italian Garden. As Christie makes clear in his recording note, “After several editions devoted to music from all over Europe, then two focusing exclusively on works in French, the time had come, we felt, to turn to the language in which opera was born and that was also to become the mother tongue of the greatest singers of the time – Italian.”
The result is pure joy; that is to say, didacticism takes a back seat in favour of sometimes bawdy entertainment – though naturally the composers featured, who range from the early Baroque (Orazio Vecchi) through Stradella, Vivaldi and Handel to the late classical (Domenico Cimarosa) are honoured with performances as learned as they are laugh-inducing.
Well, not always: there’s some sober stuff here too, such as Handel’s ubiquitous Lascia la spina, ravishingly performed by soprano Lucía Martín-Cartón. But what really binds these performances are their sheer stylishness and exuberance. As one would expect from this seasoned orchestra and their indefatigable conductor – but not necessarily from the six youthful singers who prove themselves more than equal to the task.