It’s not often that an aria disc has you dancing, but this adventurous album from Patricia Petibon might just do the trick. The French soprano has combined two of her musical passions – Spanish music and the Baroque – into one program, in which 17th- and 18th-century arias and folksongs from England, France, Spain and Latin America mingle with gay abandon.
Dance rhythms and catchy tunes abound, from the seguidilla of José de Nebra’s En amor, pastorcillos, to the chaconne of Charpentier’s Sans frayeur dans ces bois to the zippy French folksong J’ai vu le loup, which comes complete with bagpipes and historically informed pronunciation. There’s typical Baroque fare too, chosen to reflect the Old World’s fascination with the New: arias from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Charpentier’s Médée and Rameau’s i, all of them set in farflung lands.
It’s a diverse program, whose varied strands intertwine in fascinating ways. Dido’s Lament, for instance, is an intriguing companion to Le Bailly’s Yo soy la locura, and it’s interesting to hear Handel’s Spanish aria No se emenderá jámas amid its native counterparts. Petibon brings her own lively artistry to the mix, moving easily between Old World and New. She has the depth of tone for Dido and Médee, the playful sparkle for Rameau’s Zima, and the flexibility for Handel; and she enters just as idiomatically into the less formal world of the folksongs.
Like most of Petibon’s albums, this one contains its share of vocal effects and quirky touches. This eccentricity has always been part of Petibon’s distinctive vocal personality, though, and is mostly well employed here, particularly in the colourful textures of the Spanish and Latin American selections.
Indeed, it is these selections which set this album apart, their exotic sounds and infectious rhythms endowing them with an immediate, often toe-tapping appeal which Petibon’s bright soprano can’t help but enhance. She shares these laurels equally, however, with the musicians of Marcon’s La Cetra (and assorted soloists), whose playing explodes with authentic colours and threatens at every moment to steal the show.