GASPARINI Il Bajazet
Handel completed Tamerlano in advance of the 1724-25 season, but the tenor Francesco Borosini’s arrival in London prompted Handel to recompose large swathes of the music and restructure the libretto, because Borosini showed him a version by Francesco Gasparini that he had sung at Reggio Emilia in 1719. A staged production of this work in Tuscany last summer led to this premiere recording.
Carlo Ipata conducts with a thoughtful ear for detailed phrasing and Auser Musici provide graceful orchestral playing. Bajazet’s suicide scene at the climax of the opera (one of the biggest elements to influence Handel) is sung by Leonardo De Lisi with a firm hint of baritone in the voice. Filippo Mineccia makes a few surreptitious hints at the instability of Tamerlano’s infatuation for Asteria in ‘Se la gloria ai tuoi bei lumi’ (including a discreet pair of oboes), and his explosive fury as the opera reaches towards its tragic climax is communicated boldly in ‘A dispetto’ (featuring a pair of rasping horns; this is perhaps the one moment where Gasparini’s musical response to the text is a match for Handel’s). Giuseppina Bridelli performs Asteria’s ‘Cor di padre’ resolutely, and it concludes Act 2 with a flourish, thanks to Sebastiano Severi’s animated concertante cello (the music couldn’t be more different from Handel’s setting of the text, which he moved to the start of Act 3).
Tamerlano’s jilted fiancée Irene was sung in 1719 by the young Faustina Bordoni; her gently naive ‘Viena, vola’ is sung beguilingly by Ewa Guban´ska, accompanied for long stretches by only Rosella Croce’s whispered violin obbligato. Irene’s reaction to Tamerlano’s faithlessness might have been delivered with a harder-edged vigour (‘Ti sento si’), but when her fortunes rise again she sings a charming Venetian-style pizzicato song (‘Non è si fido al nido’). The Greek prince Andronico’s strained hope of finding happiness with Asteria is conveyed sentimentally by Antonio Giovannini in ‘Con dolci prieghi e pianti’. The secondary character Clearco (omitted by Handel) has some of the best arias: a pair of recorders illustrate a moth seeking joy near the light in the trippingly attractive ‘La farfalletta’, whereas the lament ‘Morte non è agli amanti’ has sorrowful chromatic strings (both arias are sung sweetly by Benedetta Mazzucato). Leone’s contemplative pastoral aria ‘Rondinella che si vede’ is sung sensitively by Raffaele Pé.
The set is essential for anyone wanting to better understand the source material that inspired Handel’s genius; but of course it also reveals some considerable merits of Gasparini, hitherto best known as the maestro di coro at Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà who absconded in 1713, leaving Vivaldi to carry the can.