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Ars Lyrica Houston Releases All-Domenico Scarlatti Recording

Related: Ars Lyrica Houston, Domenico Scarlatti, La Dirindina, Sono Luminus, Jamie Barton, Joseph Gaines

The Grammy-nominated early music ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston today releases Domenico Scarlatti's La Dirindina, its newest recording on the Sono Luminus label. The title piece, a musical farce, features mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, baritone Brian Shircliffe and tenor Joseph Gaines with the Ars Lyrica ensemble, conducted by its artistic director, harpsichordist Matthew Dirst. Scarlatti's cantata, Pur nel Sonno is the companion piece, featuring soprano Céline Ricci; and Dirst partners with Richard Savino on two of Scarlatti's virtuosic sonatas for mandolin and harpsichord to complete the recording.

La Dirindina is available on amazon.com, ariama.com, and at other classical music retailers; MSRP is $19.99, which includes both a standard CD and surround-sound blu-ray disc.

The story of La Dirindina concerns a wily but gifted young singer, Dirindina (Jamie Barton), and her teacher Don Carissimo (Brian Shircliffe), whose interest in his pupil is more than a little untoward. Enter Liscione (Joseph Gaines), a famous castrato who brings some surprising news: the Milan theater wants to engage Dirindina as its prima donna.

A work in two parts characterized by inventive and energetic rhythms and dramatic coloration, La Dirindina includes a "play within a play": a mock enactment of the tragic Dido's rejection of the feckless Aeneas, which leads Don Carissimo to the false assumption that his ward is not only with child but ready to commit suicide. As with all good comedies, the joke's on him: the finale is both outrageous and touching, as the capon and the hen are joined in hand by a thoroughly deceived old man. Pur nel sonno, sung by soprano Céline Ricci, is delivered from the unlucky suitor's point of view, and from the outset, the mood is dark: an instrumental introduction in two parts precedes a sinewy first aria sung by the world-weary lover, rejected by the unattainable Phyllis but unable to forget her, even in sleep. A highly dramatic recitative follows, as the protagonist's dream veers from lovely visions to fear and shame. His final realization-that he'll never be free again-is given full vent in a tour-de-force concluding aria with abundant vocal fireworks. Between the vocal works, Matthew Dirst and Richard Savino have collaborated on two of Scarlatti's Sonatas, offered as tuneful instrumental interludes for mandolin and harpsichord.

Scarlatti composed more than 500 keyboard sonatas, of which nine include indications for a figured bass, suggesting origins as sonatas for melody instrument with continuo accompaniment. The practice of transcribing these works dates from the 18th century. In his liner notes for the recording, Dirst comments, "The Scarlatti continuo sonatas were well suited to this kind of treatment, since all but one comprise multiple movements, on the model of the older Baroque church sonata. Both K. 88 and K. 91 work well in various guises, including as sonatas for mandolin and harpsichord." About Ars Lyrica Houston Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston is a Texas-based, world-class ensemble that performs Baroque music on period instruments. Ars Lyrica's world premiere recording of J.A. Hasse's Marc Antonio e Cleopatra brought the ensemble a Grammy nomination for "a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality" (Early Music America).

Ars Lyrica's distinctive programming, drawn from the rich chamber and dramatic repertories of the 17th and 18th centuries, "sets the agenda for imaginative period instrument programming in Houston," according to the Houston Chronicle. The ensemble's first commercial release, on Naxos International, features the world première recordings of Alessandro Scarlatti's La Concettione della Beata Vergine and Euridice dall'Inferno. This disc brought international recognition to the ensemble: Gramophone, the leading journal of the classical recording industry, praised this CD for its "exemplary skill and taste," and Ars Lyrica's musicians for their "impassioned performance" of never-before recorded works. For more information visit www.arslyricahouston.org.

Recording Summary
La Dirindina and pur nel sonno
DSL-92159 Release
Date: August 28, 2012
Artist: Ars Lyrica Houston; Matthew Dirst, Artistic Director
Genre: Ensembles and Orchestras
Blu-Ray & CD Price: $19.99

Matthew Dirst is a prizewinning American harpsichordist and organist who also serves as Associate Professor of Music at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music and organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Noted for his stylish playing of Baroque music in particular, his recent performances of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" were praised as "an extremely taut and accurate traversal" (The New York Sun), "a technically dazzling, deeply moving performance" (Houston Chronicle), "of irresistible rhythmic impulse [and] dazzling virtuosity" (Dallas Morning News). Mr.Dirst's book, Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn, published by Cambridge University Press in May 2013, is now available online.

Jamie BartonLa Dirindina A winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton has been described by Opera News as "a rising star" with a "sumptuous voice." A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, she has already appeared on a number of the world's great stages, including those of the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, the Bayerische Staatsoper, Santa Fe Opera, Atlanta Opera, Wolf Trap, the Opera Theater of St Louis, and the Canadian Opera Company. Her roles include Penelope in Monteverdi's Ulisse, Suzuki in Madame Butterfly, Emilia in Otello, the Second Lady in The Magic Flute, Annina in La traviata, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, the Nurse in Boris Godunov, and Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos, among others. Jamie is featured on another Sono Luminus CD with Ars Lyrica Houston: Johann Adolf Hasse's Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra (DSL-92115), which was nominated for a Grammy® Award for Best Opera 2011.

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