Catalan countertenor Xavier Sabata’s fascinating new recital presents the Alexander of history and myth as seen through the eyes (and heard through the ears!) of Baroque librettists and composers over a 75-year period. But the focus is, as the title suggests, on Alexander the lover. It is this, Sabata says, which lends cohesion to a “mosaic of scenes from his life” and “collage of… different musical representations”, ultimately forming a “sonic photograph of anabsolutely fascinating and contradictory character”.

Depending on the librettist, composer and performer for whom a particular aria was written, the results can be as “fascinating and contradictory” as Alexander’s own character. For example, the two ariettes from Antonio Draghi’s 1687 La Vittoria della Fortezza (The Victory of Fortitude) are graceful strophic reflections on morality. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Porpora’s virtuosic and fiery Destrier ch’all’armi usato from his 1731 opera Poro, written for the famous castrato Farinelli.

Arias by Handel, Bononcini, Pescetti, Vinci, Leo and Mancini offer a smorgasbord of musical styles and an opportunity for Sabata and the brilliant Vespres D’Arnadí under Dani Espasa to display their copious technical and artistic abilities. These are evident not only in the aforementioned Porpora – talk about finishing the recital with a bang! – but in Pescetti’s beautiful Serbati a grandi imprese and Bononcini’s luminous Chiare faci al di cui lume.

Composer: Handel, Porpora et al
Composition: Opera arias
Performer: Xavier Sabata ct, Vespres D’Arnadí
Catalogue Number: Aparte AP192