World premiere recording of Vinci’s Catone in Utica

Star countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic steps into new musical territory with the world premiere recording of Catone in Utica by Leonardo Vinci, a forgotten genius of Italian opera. Born in 1696, for generations Vinci has been just another obscure Baroque composer. But Cencic’s pioneering music production company Parnassus Arts put him firmly on the musical map with amazingly successful performances of Artaserse. Now Cencic unveils Vinci’s Catone in Utica, a powerful tale of Julius Caesar’s defeat of the Republican forces led by Marcus Porcius Cato in 46BC, exploring the eternal themes of love, duty and honour. The latest fruit of a groundbreaking agreement between Decca, Cencic and Parnassus Arts, the opera will appeal to all fans of Baroque music’s unsung heroes.

Leonardo Vinci, “the Lully of Italy,” is fast gaining a reputation with a new generation. Gramophone said of the composer: “Posterity has been unkind to the Neapolitan master, although he was esteemed highly by his contemporaries Vivaldi and Handel … Now the composer’s visibility and reputation are emphatically rehabilitated by … by Max Emanuel Cencic.”

Max Emanuel Cencic is living proof that we are encountering the renaissance of the countertenor voice, ably demonstrated by this spring’s release of his album The 5 Countertenors.

For Catone in Utica Cencic gathers around him a winning cast of first-class countertenors – Franco Fagioli, Valer Sabadus, Vince Yi and Martin Mitterrutzner – a great tenor in Juan Sancho, and il pomo d’oro, an orchestra that sizzles with excitement under the direction of Riccardo Minasi, who enjoys a growing reputation for his recordings of Baroque repertoire.

The same team will be performing Catone in Utica in Wiesbaden (30 May), Bergen (1 June) and at the Opéra Royal de Versailles (16 June).

Catone in Utica, with a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, was first performed in Rome in 1728, and takes us back to the mysterious all-male world of the 18th-century Roman stage when women were banned from the stage by Pope Sixtus V. The score offers many musical revelations and contains two of the earliest examples of the aria agitata, a declamatory expression of emotion and passion.

When Decca released Cencic’s world premiere recording of Hasse’s Siroe last November, the response was overwhelming. BBC Music Magazine called it “a triumph.” Gramophone said: “There’s a lively and driving sense of drama in an ambitious project that has worked out superbly.”