Handel's Oratorio and Opera Arias
The Gramophone Choice
‘Amor e gelosia’
Admeto – Alma mia, dolce ristoro. Atalanta – Amarilli?; Amarilli? Oh Dei! che vuoi?. Faramondo – Del destin non mi lagno…Caro, tu m’accendi. Flavio – Ricordati, mio ben. Muzio Scevola – Vivo senz’alma, o bella. Orlando – Finché prendi. Poro – Caro amico amplesso!; Perfidi! ite del Poro a ricercar nel campo…Se mai più sarò geloso; Se mai turbo il tuo riposo; Act 3, Sinfonia; Lode agli Dei!…Se mai turbo il tuo riposo. Rinaldo – Scherzano sul tuo volto. Rodelinda – Non ti bastò, consorte…Io t’abbraccio. Serse – Gran pena e gelosia!. Sosarme – Per le porte del tormento. Teseo – Addio, mio caro bene. Silla – Mio diletto, che pensi?…Sol per te, bell’idol mio
Patrizia Ciofi sop Joyce DiDonato mez Il Complesso Barocco / Alan Curtis hpd
Virgin Classics 545628-2 (74’ · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
The duets in Handel’s operas are the special treats, coming at climactic points – most often two lovers’ supposedly final parting or their ultimate reunion. Try ‘Io t’abbraccio’ from Rodelinda or the wonderful ‘Per la porte del tormento’ from Sosarme. We have several pieces from Poro, first the intense little love duet in Act 2, and later the two arias in which Poro and Cleofide swear eternal fidelity – which they fling back at each other when, in a duet we also hear, both believe themselves betrayed. Then there’s the delightful little minor-key duet from Faramondo, the quarrel duet from Atalanta, the charmingly playful piece from Muzio Scevola, and the extraordinary one for the pleading Angelica and the furious, maddened Orlando. Handel’s understanding of the shades and accents of love is something to marvel at.
All are most beautifully sung by Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato, who has just the right firmness and focus for a castrato role (as the mezzo voices almost always are here); both phrase beautifully, articulate and express the words clearly and tellingly, and ornament the da capo sections in a natural and tasteful fashion. The accompaniments, done by a chamber group under Alan Curtis with much refined timing of detail, add to the pleasures of this truly delectable CD.
Alessandro – Brilla nell’ alma un non inteso ancor. Amadigi di Gaula – Ah spietato. Arianna in Creta – Son qual stanco. Deidamia – M’hai resa infelice. Faramondo – Combattuta da due venti. Giulio Cesare – Che sento? oh Dio!; Se pietà di me non senti. Orlando – Verdi piante, erbette liete. Partenope – L’amor ed il destin. Rodelinda – Ombre, piante. Scipione – Scoglio d’immota fronte. Tamerlano – Cor di padre
Sandrine Piau sop Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset
Naïve E8894 (67’ · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
Sandrine Piau and Christophe Rousset have been consistently stylish and perceptive Handelians together. Their musical flair and dramatic intelligence are marvellously captured here, and they have chosen arias that explore the full range of Handel’s genius.
The experience starts with the spectacular ‘Scoglio d’immota fronte’, and the subsequent sequence weaves through wonderful contrasts. It’s hard to capture the full dramatic sense and vivid personality of Handel’s opera characters in a studio recital, yet they hit the bullseye every time, bringing out Cleopatra’s despair, Rodelinda’s eloquent grief for her apparently deceased husband, the heartbroken sorceress Melissa in Amadigi di Gaula, Deidamia’s distress at losing Achilles to the Trojan war, and Partenope’s gorgeous charisma.
Although some da capo sections stray a little too far from Handel’s notation for the comfort of scholars, they all enhance the drama of the text, and each cadenza, showing panache and taste, is a breath of fresh air. The playing of Les Talens Lyriques is a model of clarity, vitality and theatrical wit. It was an inspired decision to close the recital with the sublime understatement of ‘Son qual stanco’, featuring a heartbreaking cello solo by Atsushi Sakaï. Rousset and Piau achieve the perfect synthesis of elegance, extravagance and emotion.
‘As steals the morn…’
L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato – As steals the morna. Esther – Tune your harps to cheerful strains. Jephtha – His mighty arm, with sudden blow; Waft her, angels, through the skies. Samson – Total eclipse; Did love constrain thee; Your charms to ruin led the way; Thus when the sun from’s wat’ry bed; Let but that spirit. Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno – Urne voi. Alceste – Enjoy the sweet Elysian grove. Rodelinda – Fatto inferno; Pastorello d’un povero armento. Semele – Where’re you walk. Tamerlano – Forte e lieto; Oh per me lieto, avventuroso giorno!ab; Figlia mia
Mark Padmore ten Lucy Crowe sop Robin Blaze counterten The English Concert / Andrew Manze
Harmonia Mundi HMU90 7422 (77’ · DDD) Buy from Amazon
Underpinned by Andrew Manze’s unobtrusive and warm-hearted English Concert, Mark Padmore uses his extraordinary diction and whispering chamber-like intimacy to remind us that the most exalted tenor arias from Handel’s operas and oratorios can achieve true potency out of context.
Favourites like ‘Where’re you walk’ and ‘Waft her, angels’ appear to grow out of this varied programme without the sense of being lifted for a compilation; Padmore is a master of taste, restraint and unassuming gesture. ‘Pastorello d’un povero’ is a touching vignette and the soft singing elsewhere contributes to a concentrated and affecting juxtaposition of human vice and virtue in the Tamerlano scenas. As throughout, Padmore saves the greatest emotional impact for the da capos, where coloration reaches new heights.
Indeed, it is the joy in conveying the emotional core of each situation which marks out this disc. Graphic dramatic effects abound (not least the Sultan’s gradual giving up the ghost in ‘Figlia mia’ with a croaking realism) but this is a disc which celebrates Handel’s capacity for incisive human observation, achieved more through reflective means than showpiece coloratura. It’s a persuasive and thoughtful approach.
Padmore’s lowest register can seem a touch insubstantial but this is a small gripe in a disc boasting – as its parting shot – the duet ‘As steals the morn’, a performance with the fine Lucy Crowe at her most alluring.