Kate Lindsey, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

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by Kate Lindsey
Several composers have written music inspired by the story of Arianna (also commonly known as Ariadne) abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos. The American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, lauded for her intelligent and luminous singing, chose to illustrate this story by means of three composers: Alessandro Scarlatti, Handel and Haydn and with the help of the Arcangelo ensemble, founded by harpsichordist and organist Jonathan Cohen. The archetype of the woman abandoned, the character of Arianna offers composers and performers alike vast expressive possibilities for an audience always eager to identify themselves with the scarred heroine.
Monteverdi was without a doubt one of the first ones to put the young woman’s perils to music, in an opera which has since been lost (the only surviving part is the sublime lamento). In the cantata Ebra d’amor fuggia, Alessandro Scarlatti conjures Arianna’s state of mind in a very baroque way, tenderly, dreamily, rebelliously… Handel would also use the same influence during his Roman years with his cantata Ah! crudel, nel planto moi, an exact contemporary of Scarlatti’s work, as the two were composed in 1707.
At the later end of the century, in 1789, Haydn also wrote Arianna a Naxos, a cantata for solo voice accompanied by a single keyboard. The expression is intense but the absence of vocal virtuosity pushes one to think this is work destined for more experienced performers just as much as talented amateurs. We know that Haydn planned on adding instruments to his cantata, a project that was completed by several composers including his student Sigismund Neukomm, whose work from 1808, the year before the Haydn’s death, is presented here.

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