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Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Arminio - Vivica Genaux
Tusnelda - Geraldine McGreevy
Sigismondo - Dominique Labelle
Ramise - Manuela Custer
Varo - Luigi Petroni
Tullio - Sytse Buwalda
Segeste - Riccardo Ristori
Il Complesso Barocco, conducted by Alan Curtis
Rec: July 2000.
VIRGIN VERITAS VCD 5 45461 2 [146.26]
Crotchet £25  AmazonUK   £27.99 AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

One of only four Haendel operas that had not yet been recorded, Arminio had a chequered career. Composed near the end of Haendel's life, in 1736, it was only performed six times in its original performance, once again in 1972, and its notes would not be heard again until July 2000, in a concert preceding this recording.

Written in haste, over a period of three weeks, Arminio has always been considered uninteresting or unimportant. Yet, listening to this work, I see no reason why such a judgement should have been made. While not up to the same standards as Haendel's other operas, it nevertheless contains some fine music, even if the plot is a bit convoluted. While Haendel often used bits of music from other works, Arminio contains very little parody - an aria from Rinaldo shows up, as it does in other works, and some instrumental snatches as well. But it is essentially a new work.

Arminio opens with a dramatic overture - a series of somewhat martial themes that concur with the background of the plot, where the German prince Arminius defeated the Roman legions in 9 AD, ending Roman expansion into Gaul. The complicated plot deals with the love between and among several characters.

The soloists are all capable, at least, and I found Geraldine McGreevy, playing the role of Tusnelda, to be quite good. Her voice injects a great deal of emotion into her arias. Also, there is a fine balance between the instrumentalists and soloists. Curtis's small ensemble is excellent, and plays both intimate and large-scale sections with energy and conviction.

Some of the arias are destined to become classics - Al par della mia sorte, sung by Arminio in act I, is beautiful, as is Fiaccheró quell fiero orgoglio, later in the same act, sung by Segeste. Varo's aria, Mira il ciel, vedrai dí Alicde, one of the longest arias in the work, is also very attractive.

While not one of Haendel's greatest operas, all Haendel lovers will want to own this, the first recording of Arminio. The performance is excellent, and the work contains some real gems. I must admit, I have been listening to it over and over.

Kirk McElhearn

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