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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Poro, Re delle Indie:
Overture [3:21]
‘Caro! Dolce! Amico amplesso’ [2:47]
Recitative, Act III, scene 8 [0:38]
‘Finchè prendi ancora il sangue’ [3:07]
Recitative, Act II, scene 13 [0:42]
‘Se teco vive il cor’ [3:16]
Flavio, Re dei Longobardi:
Recitative, Act II, scene 11 [0:42]
‘Mà chi punir desio’ [6:58]
Recitative, Act II, scene 8 [0:26]
‘Più di una tigre altero’ [4:08]
‘Vivo in te’ [7:51]
Recitative, Act III scene 12 [0:53]
‘Ah! Non son io che parlo’ [7:13]
Recitative, Act I, scene 6 [1:07]
‘Scherzano sul tuo volto’ [3:26]
Overture [5:37]
Recitative, Act I, scene 6 [0:15]
‘No, più soffrir non voglio’ [3:43]
Recitative, Act I, scene 9 [0:23]
‘Da un breve riposo’ [4:47]
Amadigi di Gaula:
Recitative, Act II, scene 5 [0:32]
‘Pena tiranna’ [6:00]
Ottone, Re di Germania:
Recitative, Act III, scene 9 [0:31]
‘A’ teneri affetti’ [3:55]
Sandrine Piau (soprano)
Sara Mingardo (contralto)
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. Instituto Pontificale di Musica Sacra, Rome, 2008. DDD
NAÏVE OP 30483 [72:28]
Experience Classicsonline

Another Handel opera disc during this anniversary year (2009) - but one with a difference. The arias, duets, recitatives and overtures in this recording are not grouped according to a set theme or singing style: heroic tenors, rival queens or famous castrati. Instead, if the sleeve-notes are to be believed, soprano Sandrine Piau, contralto Sara Mingardo and conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini set out simply to enjoy themselves by performing favourite works from across Handel’s operatic output. Their only rules were to omit the very famous numbers - ‘Cara sposa’ from Rinaldo, for example, is not included - maintain a sense of mood contrast, and to include opening recitatives as a means of placing the characters within the dramatic context of each opera.

As an exercise in high quality musical enjoyment, the three performers largely succeed - both for themselves and for the listener. The most noticeable factor is the contrast between the two voices. Mingardo possesses a deep, rounded contralto voice which is well suited to some of the roles Handel originally wrote for castrati. Meanwhile, Piau’s bright, crystal-clear soprano is perfect for Handel’s heroines. Together, they reveal the freshness and complexities of Handel’s vocal writing, without some of the muddiness that often mars soprano and mezzo couplings.

The obvious highlights are Piau’s and Mingardo’s duets from Poro, Orlando, Radamisto, Tamerlano, Rinaldo and Ottone. Both singers also get the chance to shine in solo arias. Piau gets the vocal pearls, for example in ‘No, più soffrir non volgio’ from Alessandro (track 18). But Mingardo possibly has the edge in characterisation, moving from wounded indignation as Andronico in Tamerlano (track 10), to the Macedonian king’s smug self-satisfaction in Alessandro (track 20).

There is fine orchestral support throughout from Concerto Italiano under Alessandrini. Lamenting recorders add to the pathos of Asteria and Andronico’s duet from Tamerlano (track 11), while oboe and bassoon accompaniment, plus cutting strings, add real depth to Dardano’s aria from Amadigi (track 22). Only in two overtures - to Poro and Alessandro - does the orchestra get to shine alone. In the more substantial Alessandro overture (track 16) the slow opening section is suitably stately and martial, while the lengthy allegro is full of lively flourishes - particularly from the woodwind. Interesting sleeve-notes and full texts and translations add to a very enjoyable and desirable package.

John-Pierre Joyce










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