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American Record Guide: (07-08/2020) 
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Reviewer: David Reynolds

Who knew there was another Cleopatra? Isabel Bayrakdarian does. "This project's Cleopatra of Pontus (110-58 BC) was the daughter of Mithridates VI, and became Queen Consort of King Tigranes II, known as Tigranes the Great of Armenia...(she) was instrumental in making Tigranes II the greatest king in Armenian history, by the alliance through marriage of two mighty nations, Armenia and Pontus", explains the singer in her detailed notes. This Cleopatra is seen through the eyes of three composers—Hasse, Vivaldi, and Gluck—using the same text by Abate Francesca Silvani (1660-1728). Hasse was well known as an opera composer in his lifetime, described by music historian Charles Burney as "the most natural, elegant, and judicious composer of vocal music". His reputation has increased in the last three decades as more of his music has been revived. He seems to have written the arias here for a singer who had what we would call today a mezzo-soprano, a term not in use in Hasse's time. There are no high excursions, and the vocal line stays mainly in the middle register. Vivaldi and Gluck's reputations have been more secure in musical history, though much of their opera and vocal writing has come to be reassessed. All three composers respond to the dramatic texts with tuneful, colorful writing, only a little of which requires vocal agility. Their use of the orchestra varies too—Gluck's the most interesting. It is great to have another record from Bayrakdarian. She has a knack for unearthing music that hasn't been heard in centuries and brings it to life with her colorful soprano. Most of the music here doesn't take her very high, though she retains her soprano timbre. I was impressed by her ornamentation that takes her way below the staff in several selections. Constantine Orbelian and the Kaunsas City Symphony are also effective. Delos offers excellent sound, notes, texts, and translations.


Any scholar or lover of Baroque and early classical music should hear this.

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