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Hard on the heels of Artaserse comes another castrato-fest from the pen of Leonardo Vinci. Catone in Utica was premiered in Rome in 1728 and, like Artaserse, has a libretto by Metastasio. Seven years later, a moderated version of the text was used by Vivaldi in his opera of the same name. Vinci’s music in the ‘galant’ Neapolitan style is unfailingly appealing and all the more so when in the mouths of some of the world’s finest countertenors. Their vocal agility is often astonishing as indeed is their flair for idiomatic embellishment. In this latter respect Franco Fagioli (Caesar) is especially noteworthy and his bravura technique serves him well – though his vibrato can be irritating. Max Emanuel Cencic in the role of Caesar’s rival, Arbace, Valer Sabadus, daughter of Cato and Juan Sancho (Cato) are splendid.

Metastasio’s text is dramatically effective, affording opportunities for strong and clearly delineated characterization. That is just as well; at almost four hours long, this is not an opera for the faint-hearted. It is to the credit of the soloists and excellent instrumentalists of Il Pomo d’Oro that the entertainment remains buoyant throughout under the stylish and energetic direction of Riccardo Minasi. The boisterous three-movement opening sinfonia with brass and timpani in its outer movements vividly captures the prevailing spirit of the work.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica

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