The Carnival of Venice in 1729 was quite unlike any other. Over a period of two months, opera houses went into a frenzy of competition to show off the most famous singers of the day, including the legendary castrato Farinelli who made his astonishing Venetian debut. Several of the most fashionable composers rose to the occasion, writing ravishing music for spectacular productions which often pitted the singers against each other in breathtaking displays of virtuosity. The results were sensational; one tour de force followed another in an atmosphere of fevered excitement and the adoring public lapped it up.

The carnival opened with a star-studded cast in Leonardo Leo’s tragedy Cantone in Utica from which the dazzling aria Soffre talor del vento and the more gentle Ombra adorata are taken. Farinelli triumphed in Nicolo Porpora’s opera Semiramide, the perfect vehicle for his extraordinary technique. By contrast Adelaide by Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, another premiere, contains show-stopping displays for Farinelli’s arch rival Faustina Bordoni. And Germiano Giacomelli’s elegant opera Gianguir contains the achingly beautiful aria Mi par sentir la bella. Most of these rediscovered works are recorded here for the first time.

With a repertoire that includes leading roles in operas by Rossini, Mozart, Gluck, Handel, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Purcell, Bizet and Massenet, Ann Hallenberg is a much in demand Swedish mezzo-soprano and has recorded over 40 CDs, her solo CD Agrippina winning the award for best operatic recital at the International Opera Awards in May 2016.

The baroque violinist and conductor Stefano Montanari is a much sought after guest conductor with both modern and period orchestras. He is regarded as one of the finest baroque violin virtuosos of his generation.

Ann Hallenberg brings these rediscovered works from February 1729 back to our times in this album, most of them recorded for the first time. The album Carnevale 1729 is world-wide released by Pentatone on June 16, 2017.


A personal introduction

“It’s often something unexpected that sparks inspiration for a new album project. This recording started with those cheap CDs you can buy at any gas-station: “Greatest Hits 1985”, “Summer Hits 2010” etc. I began to imagine what an album from the 18th century would have been like. What would the “hits” of the season have been? So I decided to explore an exciting period in Venice. Here are eight weeks between Christmas and spring that are full of scandals, intrigues, gossip and, most importantly, fantastic music: the carnival season of 1729. Enter our time machine, fasten your seat belts and make yourself comfortable. Imagine the narrow “calle”, the damp air from the canals, the fog and the wind from the sea, the crowded theatres and the oozing candles.”

Ann Hallenberg