Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) was famous in his day as a teacher and composer. Indeed. Today Porpora is remembered chiefly as the teacher of Farinelli. But artists such as Cecilia Bartoli and Simone Kermes have recorded excerpts from Porpora operas giving tantalising glimpses into a florid and uncompromising style, which in spirit recalls Godowsky’s studies after Chopin’s études.
Luckily this recording features some of the most artistically and technically gifted singers in the business, including countertenor Max Emanuel Cencˇic´ (Germanico), Mary-Ellen Nesi (Arminio) and Julia Lezhneva (Ersinda), and the singing is truly spectacular. Which is a good thing, because to be honest Niccolò Coluzzi’s libretto, which tells of the defiance of Arminius, chieftain of Germania in the face of Roman general Germanico’s occupying forces in 14AD, is less than compelling.
Porpora wastes no time getting down to business, and following a terrific three-part overture played with gusto by brilliant period instrument band Capella Cracoviensis under Jan Tomasz Adamus, Arminio’s first aria Serba costante il core presents the catalogue of vocal devices – fast triplet roulades, arpeggios, octave leaps and more – which will characterise the opera throughout. However, you can have too much of a good thing, and at over three hours in length Germanico in Germania is best listened to in multiple sittings.