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16,95 €

Siface: l’amor castrato
Filippo Mineccia, contratenor

REF.: GCD 923514
EAN 13: 8424562235144

Con este deslumbrante Siface: l’amor castrato, el contratenor Filippo Mineccia y el director Javier Ulises Illán a la cabeza de Nereydas, presentan un pasticcio imaginario que refleja la vida musical y personal del castrato contralto nacido como Giovanni Francesco Grossi en 1653 en Toscana.

Siface, admirado por sus grandes logros artísticos, también se hizo famoso por su trágica vida amorosa y su pavoroso final. Fue llamado para cantar en óperas y oratorios por compositores como Alessandro Stradella, Bernardo Pasquini, Carlo Pallavicino o Pietro Simone Agostini. Por un largo tiempo permaneció al servicio de Francesco II d’Este en Módena, siendo un miembro activo del «circuito ducal» en la península italiana, y llegando incluso a cantar en Inglaterra ante la realeza, donde se encontró con un Henry Purcell que quedó prendado por su arte.

Filippo Mineccia captura con brillantez la caleidoscópica sucesión de emociones que atraviesa esta selección de arias, que reflejan el modo de vida tórrido y espectacular de finales del XVII, y que en caso de Siface llevó a su caída en la ruta entre Ferrara y Boloña. El conjunto Nereydas se sumerge con empatía en esta celebración vocal e instrumental siempre colorista, a menudo profunda e incisiva, firmada también por Alessandro Scarlatti (la emotivísima nana Dormi o fulmine), Francesco Cavalli o el mencionado Henry Purcell (My song shall be alway). En su texto, Elena Bernardi da cuerpo a aspectos aún poco conocidos de la fase inicial de la ópera a finales del Seicento. Sin duda, un disco que aúna placer y descubrimiento. 


Filippo Mineccia, contratenor
Javier Ulises Illán, dirección

Recorded in Guadarrama (Centro Cultural de La Torre), Spain, in May 2017
Engineered by Federico Prieto
Produced by Federico Prieto and Javier Ulises Illán
Executive producer: Michael Sawall
Booklet essay by Elena Bernardi
English - Français – Deutsch

Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682)
01 Ouverture 1:54
02 Recitativo “Amiche selve” [Role: San Giovanni] 0:36
03 Aria “Deste un tempo” [Role: San Giovanni] 1:19
(San Giovanni Battista, Rome, 1675)

Carlo Pallavicino (c.1630-1688)
04 Aria “È pur caro il poter dire” [Role: Tito] 1:41
(Vespasiano. Venice, 1678)

Alessandro Stradella
05 Aria “Voi donzelle che studiate” [Role: Testo] 3:01
(La Susanna. Modena, 1681)
06 Aria “Soffin pur rabbiosi” [Role: San Giovanni] 3:40
(San Giovanni Battista. Rome, 1675)

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710)
07 Ouverture 3:58
(La Sete di Cristo. Rome, 1689)

Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
08 Aria “Hora si ch’assai più fiero” [Role: Siface] 3:23
(Scipione Africano. Rome, 1671)

Alessandro Stradella
09 Aria “Io per me non cangerei” [Role: San Giovanni] 4:07
(San Giovanni Battista. Rome, 1675)

Carlo Pallavicino
10 Ouverture 3:33
(Il Bassiano. Modena, 1683)

Pietro Simone Agostini (1635-1680)
11 Recitativo “Hor ch’in sopor profondo” [Role: Ostilio] 1:06
12 Aria “Sorgi o bella da le piume” [Role: Ostilio] 2:52
(Il ratto delle Sabine. Venice, 1680)

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (c.1645-c.1712)
13 Aria “Tremino, crollino” [Role: Costanzo] 1:54
(I due germani rivali. Modena, 1686)

Giovanni Battista Bassani (1647-1716)
14 Ouverture 1:33
(La tromba della divina misericordia. Modena, 1676)

Antonio Giannettini (1648-1721)
15 Recitativo “Languia d’amor” [Role: Curzio] 1:28
16 Aria “Con un bacio” [Role: Curzio] 3:42
(Ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone. Modena, 1692)

Bernardo Pasquini
17 Aria “D’una fede al vivo zelo” [Role: Giosuè] 2:16
(I fatti di Mosè in Egitto. Modena, 1696)

Alessandro Stradella
18 Ouverture 3:14
19 Aria “Ma folle è ben chi crede” [Role: Testo] 1:41
(La Susanna. Modena, 1681)

Giovanni Battista Bassani
20 Aria “Core misero” [Role: Giona] 2:15
(Il Giona. Modena, 1689)

Pietro Simone Agostini
21 Aria “Voglio guerra” [Role: Tacio] 1:50
(Il ratto delle Sabine. Venice, 1680)

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
22 My song shall be alway (London, 1689) 5:02
23 Sefauchi’s Farewell (London, 1689) [for harpsichord] 2:21

Bernardo Pasquini
24 Aria “Ma nostre voci flebili” [Role: Giosuè] 3:44
(I fatti di Mosè in Egitto. Modena, 1696)

Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)
25 Aria “Dormi o fulmine” [Role: Nutrice] 6:40
(La Giuditta. Rome, 1697)

1 CD - DDD - 69:04

RESEÑA (La Quinta de Mahler)

In his Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni (1723), Pierfrancesco Tosi called to mind the “divine mellifluousness” of Giovanni Francesco Grossi, called Siface, as part of his praising when making an eulogy to the Bolognese school of singing, which had been made famous by Francesco Antonio Pistocchi and strengthened by his pupil Antonio Maria Bernacchi. Siface was esteemed for the beauty of his voice, as well as for his talent as an actor and above all for his exceptional control of the messa di voce. His singing was lauded for its stylish elegance, simplicity and expressivity. During the course of Grossi’s visit to London, the diarist John Evelyn was moved to write, “Indeed, his holding out and delicateness in extending and loosing a note with that incomparable softness and sweetness was admirable”, before adding, “For the rest, I found him a mere wanton, effeminate child; very coy and proudly conceited to my apprehension”. The castrato’s beautiful voice contrasted strongly with his bad temper and his abrupt manner of behaviour, which in no small way contributed to the fantastic nature of his death, which was frequently referred to by commentators of the time.

Like Alessandro Stradella and other “cursed” artists from the Baroque period, Grossi ended up by being murdered, victim of his amorous delusions. The castrato became acquainted with Elena Marsili, the widow of Count Forni at the court of his patron Francesco II d’Este, and immediately a covert understanding developed between the two. Despite the restrictions imposed on them by the Marsili brothers, the lovers continued to meet each other, even when the countess was forced into compulsory withdrawal in the convent of San Leonardo in Bologna when Giovanni Francesco was involved in rehearsals for the pasticcio Perseo at the Teatro Malvezzi. On returning from Ferrara, where he had been invited to sing at Pentecost, Siface was savagely slain with musket fire by hired killers who were swiftly linked to the Marsili family. An ensuing lengthy trial concluded by convicting the perpetrators of the murder and by banishing the real backers of the crime from the Papal States, but by then the voice of the musician had been silenced forever, in the “funerary urn of the Po”, as an anonymous contemporary poet later remembered.

Giovanni Francesco was born in 1653 into a modest family living in the outskirts of the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany, more precisely in Chiesina Uzzanese, in the region of Pistoia – an area which was the birthplace for many castratos. Possibly having been recommended or sponsored by famous compatriots, Grossi went to Rome and in 1671 took part in the production of Cavalli’s Scipione Africano – with prologues and revision by Stradella – at the Teatro Tordinona. This opera contributed so much to the phenomenal success of the singer that he was to bear, for the rest of his life, the name of the role which he played: Siface, the king of Numidia.

At the time, Rome energetically fostered and developed experimentations in the arts: these were the years of the influence of Queen Christina of Sweden; she was a great lover of music and of the excellent composers Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. Siface lent his voice to oratorios, serenades and to sacred and devotional music in cardinals’ palaces (especially that of the librettist Pamphilj ), churches and the friaries (San Luigi dei Francesi, San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, San Nicola dei Tolentini), aristocratic Accademie and in the Sistine Chapel. He earned fame for his participation in San Giovanni Battista by Stradella, composed for the Holy Year of 1675.

On one of those occasions Giovanni Francesco was undoubtedly noticed by the abate Vincenzo Grimani who wanted to engage him for the Venetian commercial stage, so that he might appear there with the leading singers of the time: Giulia Zuffi, Francesco De Castris and Giuseppe Maria Donati. Mention can be made of the Venetian operas by Carlo Pallavicino (Vespasiano, 1678) and Pier Simone Agostini (Il ratto delle Sabine, 1680).

It is with Francesco II d’Este that Siface had his longest working relationship: starting in 1679 and lasting until his death, the singer was included amongst the personnel of the court, with the high monthly salary of 198 Modena lire.

Francesco d’Este was an enlightened ruler and a great champion of the oratorio. Following on from the times of its illustrious Roman and Bolognese predecessors (such as Giovanni Paolo Colonna and Giacomo Antonio Perti), the oratorio experienced a new boom in Modena during these years (one example of this was the revival of Susanna by Stradella in 1681), underpinned by the intense and counter- Reformatory climate, which had been established in the time of Laura Martinozzi, the mother of Francesco. Its religious and political peak was the wedding of the Duke’s sister, Maria Beatrice, with the King of England, James II, endorsed by both the pope Clement X and the French king Louis XIV, with the intention of restoring Roman Catholicism to “Perfidious Albion” (an ambition which came to naught with the arrival there of William of Orange). It is in this context that Giovanni Francesco Grossi was sent to England, as a spokesman for Italian musical refinement, but not merely that. After a detour to Versailles, he was received by the English court to the great pleasure of the English Queen, Mary II. He sang for private events and for the papal court in England, without ever appearing on an opera stage. Yet his surliness, which appeared almost immediately, as well as his intolerance for the harsh climate he encountered in England obliged Siface to return earlier than planned. He certainly contributed, albeit in an indirect way, to the spread and great success on English soil of chamber cantatas from the Roman school, such as those by Carissimi, among others. He met Henry Purcell, who probably composed for him the anthem My song shall be alway and the harpsichord piece Sefauchi’s Farewell, to lament the castrato’s departure. Having returned to his native Italy where a much more favourable climate surrounded him, Grossi sang in the oratorios put on in San Carlo Rotondo of Modena: perhaps in Il Giona by Giovanni Battista Bassani (1689) and almost certainly in I fatti di Mosè in Egitto by his friend Bernardo Pasquini (1696).

Siface was used to also performing in other related contexts: the church of San Vicenzo, the Palazzo Ducale, the opera houses in Reggio Emilia and Piacenza, the summer residence at Sassuolo and in particular in the theatre in Modena, called “Il Fontanelli”, where he performed works by Carlo Antonio Lonati (I due germani rivali, 1686) by the cellist Domenico Gabrielli, by the maestro di cappella Antonio Giannettini (Ingresso alla gioventù di Claudio Nerone written for the marriage of Francesco II and Margherita Farnese, 1692), by Giovanni Legrenzi and by Carlo Francesco Pollarolo.

Whilst being at the service of the Modena court, Giovanni Francesco enjoyed the privilege of accepting new commissions from within the “ducal circuit”, which extended to the principal courts of the peninsula. What was both an instrument allowing for the circulation of virtuoso talents, and a political and diplomatic tool (as in the case of Siface’s visit to England), was also a form of economic policy for reducing the “maintenance cost” of the singers and the financing of compositions. Grossi was invited everywhere and by everyone: to Naples by an insistent admirer, the viceroy of Naples, Don Gaspar de Haro y Guzmán; to Mirandola for the wedding of Fulvia Pico; to Florence for that of the Grand Prince of Tuscany, Ferdinando de’ Medici and Violante Beatrice of Bavaria (as well as to the Accademia of the Casino di San Marco and in the residence of Pratolino outside the city); to Parma for the sumptuous marriage of Odoardo Farnese and finally to Milan, at the express request of the governor Diego Dávila Mesía y Guzmán and of the Duke of Savoy, Vittorio Amedeo II. A few biographical notes from the career of Giovanni Francesco Grossi will suffice to characterize the change in the professional status of a singer from the seventeenth century: Siface began by singing in the papal chapel and in other religious institutions, then he became a court musician in the “ducal circuit” and, at the same time, in that “mixed” system of commercial theatres. Siface was, without a shadow of a doubt, a true contralto and not a soprano, despite the assertions of some commentators. For the most part, the arias which he performed were strophic, composite, often short in length, or adorned with by instrumental ritornelli. These were arias still some distance from the Metastasian “da capo” structure, but a fertile terrain for the extraordinary ornamented virtuosity of the first divos of the eighteenth century. This was an aesthetic which still lent preponderant attention to the words and to the expression of those affetti so loved by the seventeenth century, and of which Siface was a rare and sophisticated performer. This recording has the desire to pay homage to the singer Giovanni Francesco Grossi. It also depicts the fresco of a period and of a representative musical style. We have recorded the most famous arias sung by Siface, punctuated by instrumental music from contemporary operas and oratorios – with some borrowings and modifications. The martial aria, “Voglio guerra” (from Il ratto delle Sabine by Pier Simone Agostini) was performed within the role of Tacio by the castrato Francesco Ballarini, while that of Ostilio fell to Giovanni Francesco Grossi.
Elena Bernardi

A small imaginary opera-pasticcio
For this recording I have wanted to bring together two different themes for the purpose of contrasting them. Firstly, I have wanted to present a little panoramic musical view of the late seventeenth century, a period currently very little known and its music seldom performed. As yet not linked to the rigid compositional stylistic features of the succeeding century, the seventeenth-century Italian Baroque reveals itself to study and interpretation as an inexhaustible and fascinating melting pot of musical ideas, in which marvellous composers such as Alessandro Stradella, Bernardo Pasquini and Alessandro Scarlatti tested out and developed their genius.

Secondly, I have been keen to recount a story, by creating a little imaginary opera-pasticcio for a single character; for that purpose I have “borrowed” arias and instrumental interludes directly associated with Grossi’s career or with the period in which he lived and worked. I have wanted to make Siface speak – in the first person – through this music, a character who, from his tomb, recounts his amorous relationship in a kind of timeless dreamlike space, evoking love, passion, jealousy, doubt, all the way up to the tragic conclusion of his story.

The musicologists will pardon me, I hope, for having made, in certain arias, small variations or repetitions not anticipated in the manuscripts which have principally allowed me to highlight certain dramatic stages of the story.

I would like to thank once more Elena Bernardi for her marvellous work of research without which this project could not have been achieved.

Filippo Mineccia

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