Music Reviews

‘Vibrant Venice’ from Lotte Bovi and l’Ora Blu

Paying Tribute to Musical Life in the ‘City of Water’

Once upon a time, Veneto was more than Italy is now. For centuries the Republic of Venice belonged to the greatest seafaring nations and global trade partners. Despite subsequent geopolitical changes, its capital’s rich cultural heritage remained intact until this very day. Venice is as Vibrant as ever. This new TRPTK album pays tribute to a period when musical life in the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ or ‘City of Water’ was at its summit. In the words of Mezzo-Soprano Lotte Bovi: “Venice was a bustling city, vibrating with the most beautiful tones and harmonies, produced by its residents and composers”, of which the most famous of them all, Antonio Vivaldi, is partnered in this release with two lesser-known composers, Nicola Porpora and Niccolò Jommelli, speaking much of the same language nonetheless. The result is breathtaking.

In her liner notes, Lotte Bovi explains in great detail about male and female opera roles and voices in those days and I do admit that some of it is new to me. Some will appreciate that she did not go into the matter of castrati turning out not to be the good singers they had hoped for. Changed in vain. Had I not known about these things and taking, therefore, Lotte’s singing at face value, I’d have noted the fabulous range of her voice. Just the kind Vivaldi and his contemporaries would no doubt have appreciated for their vocal output; a voice that would have solved some of the existing social constraints.

The Dutch Italians

Who would have thought that L’Ora Blù is not an Italian band? Here, too, I was, by the sound of it, convinced that these players were Italian, and perhaps even from Venice. Not that it really matters, but this group of baroque-trained musicians are from The Netherlands. Be they Dutch or having studied there. The liner notes are silent about the chosen name, but seniors among us will surely remember Françoise Hardy’s 1969 chanson L’ora blù (L’heure bleue). Perhaps a name for the occasion? That, too, doesn’t really matter. The content is more important than the flag under which the boat sails. Their objective is “an expressive, vibrant interpretation of the pieces recorded on this album”. And that is exactly what they have done with a complement of 6 Violins, a Viola (Violoncello da spalla), a Cello and a Double bass, making up the strings, supported by – as needed – a Lute, theorbo & baroque guitar, Organ and a (natural) Horn.

A Vocal Wonderland

With all the elements in place, it is time to travel through the programme and to listen to the results. Nicola Porpora first. Born in Naples, he spent some valuable time in Venice, where he composed his cantata ‘Salve Regina’ in a style that conforms to the (religious) taste of the time. After an orchestral introduction, flawlessness recorded in a way that it almost jumps out of the speakers in all its musical glory, I couldn’t believe my ears when Lotte Bovi joined in with an impressive voice and vocal span, delivering an emotional treat, religion obliging, with firm, yet delicate beauty. The balance between musicians and soloist is optimal, for which the recording engineer has no doubt lent a stimulant hand. 

One cannot think of a better lead-in to some of Vivaldi’s vocal masterpieces changing the mood to a lighter-footed, ‘La verità in cimento’, RV 739, but all the same distinguished nature. Lotte’s jubilant voice, this time not in a male but in a radiating female role, hovers over the orchestra which, indeed, plays with an expressive vibrant pulse. Without showing any favour for one or the other, I furthermore liked Lotte’s lovingly controlled voice in the aria ‘Mentre dormi amor fomenti’‘ from Vivaldi’s l’Olimpiade’, RV 725, whilst she handsomely demonstrated her exiting virtuosity that haunted me in the Aria ‘Armatae face et anguibus’ from Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans, RV 644.

Lotte Bovi’s impressively wide vocal control comes once again to the fore in Niccolò Jomelli’s ‘Betulia liberata’ with which this extraordinarily well-chosen programme draws to a close. 

A joy to listen to, time after time

Not just for lovers of this genre, but for all those who appreciate exceptional musical quality, this is a release that in my opinion should not be missed. After my accolades about the soloist, I must also extend my greatest compliments to the musicians. Their role is much more than just accompaniment. They have provided the fundament on which this Vibrant Venture could turn into a joy to listen to, time after time. 

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France

Copyright © 2024 Adrian Quanjer and

Written by

Adrian Quanjer

Adrian Quanjer is a site reviewer at HRAudio, with many years of experience in classical music. He writes from his country retreat at Blangy-le-Château, France. As a regular concertgoer, he prefers listening to music in the highest possible resolution to recreate similar involvement at home. He is eager to share his thoughts with like-minded melomaniacs at NativeDSD.


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