This set is a live recording of Handelís opera Partenope,
recorded at the Göttingen International Handel Festival in 2001.
There are pluses and minuses with the recording, one of Handelís finest
The main problem with this recording is the recording
itself. As a live recording, it suffers from many of the usual drawbacks,
and it seems as if there was little attempt to iron out the flaws. Perhaps,
there was just no other choice. The audience applauds after almost every
aria, and not only is the applause annoying, but it is also very loud.
A great deal of stage noise is heard, especially during the recitatives.
We are treated to the sounds of people tramping around, of sets being
moved, and more. The laughter heard from the audience mars the opening
instrumental sections in act 2. I wonder what was going on to make them
react so much. The singers are miked well, but at times their voices
float in and out of the mix. The orchestra is generally well-balanced,
though when the horns play in the aria Io seguo sol fiero, they
are a bit too loud.
The music in this opera is excellent - "consistently
superb", in the words of musicologist David Vickers, who wrote
part of the notes for this recording. One of the high points is the
aria with horns, mentioned above, that closes out the first act. Mezzo-soprano
Annette Markert is truly excellent as Rosmira, and, in my opinion, outshines
soprano Meredith Hall, who sounds tired, and rather overuses vibrato.
Hall also has trouble hitting the high notes in many of her arias. Many
of the other singers are not in their prime. Neither of the altos sounds
very good, their singing being imprecise and full of hesitation. Tenor
John McVeigh is fine, though he too tends to over-use vibrato. However,
the "choir", that is, when the soloists sing the few choral
movements together, sounds terrible. There is no homogeneity among the
singers. It sounds like a group of amateurs who do not know how to sing
in a group.
Probably the biggest drawback of this recording is
the omnipresent audience noise. During the first act, on the first disc,
this was bearable. As the recording goes on it gets increasingly annoying.
Sure, this is a live recording, but there are ways of editing out this
noise, or at least tempering it a bit. If you can deal with such noises,
you will certainly find some excellent music and some very good singing.
Overall, though, this is not a good enough recording to deserve any
kind of recommendation. Other recordings made at the Handel Festival
are much better and do deserve notice.