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Vivaldi’s dramma per musica, Farnace is a swaggering, vigorous take on the story of King Mithridates’ son Farnace, his wife Tamiri and his mother-in-law Berenice, and how Farnace and his army try to resist the Roman forces led by Pompey. The drama would be more compelling in this DVD recording if there were more of an attempt at staging. The singers are ‘on the book’ (reading from scores on very basic music stands) and when Tamiri (sung by Sonia Prina) brandishes a dagger, it’s hard not to think that paper rather than throats will be slit.

The lighting is low and dingy, and the orchestra (members of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino) has not been drilled into the film discipline of not eyeing the camera. The voices (Mary-Ellen Nesi as Farnace in particular) are strong, but there is no attempt, except in the continuo, to try for a Baroque sound, and the string playing can be mushy at times – although the dynamics are clearly marked. It would have been better, in the absence of a cast who knew the work by heart, to record this on CD without the distracting images.

Simon Rees Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing