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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
The Abandoned Sorceress: Arias and Recitatives from Rinaldo, Alcina and Amadigi
Rinaldo (1711)
Fermati - No, crudel
Dunque i lacci
Ah! Crudel

Alcina (1735)
Ah! Mio cor
Sta nellíIrcana
Verdi prati
Ah! Ruggiero crudel
Ombre pallide

Amadigi (1715)
Díun sventurato amante
Pena tiranno
Mi deride líamante
Desterò dallíempia Dite
Addio, crudo Amadigi
Io già sento

Simone Kermes (soprano)
Maite Beaumont (contralto)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
Recorded September 2002 Markgräfliches Opernhaus, Bayreuth, Germany. Reviewed in multichannel.
SACD Hybrid, Multichannel, Stereo: CD Stereo
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI /BMG 74321 95644 2 [60.29]


This is a concept disc. Donít be misled by the cover art which implies that Handel wrote an opera called La Maga Abbandonata; he didnít. This is the brain-child of the music director Alan Curtis and the writer Donna Leon who reads an extract from her novel Acqua alta on the final track of the disc.

The concept has some interest but in essence this is a recital disc and a very good one indeed. Both singers are excellent, the soprano particularly so. These extracts are described by Donna Leon in her interesting accompanying essay as "arias of rage and sorrow" in which the sorceresses who people so many of Handelís operas do just that, rage and sorrow; note the number of crudels and crudos in the track listing! The music is stunning. I donít think I had realised just how good Handelís operatic music could be. If one tries to attempt entire operas one gets bogged down in the interminable plots and the vast length of them. Productions on video seem to be overwhelmed by odd directorial peccadillos so perhaps this sort of disc, consisting of short extracts, is the best way into the repertoire. Ah! Crudel from Rinaldo is a splendid example of Handel at his most intense. Ah! Mio cor from Alcina epitomises the particular character of Simone Kermesí voice. She is somewhat of the school of Cecilia Bartoli in that she "emotes" quite hard and has an appealing breathiness of voice as well as secure pitching. Melissaís aria Desterò dallíempia Dite from Amadigi is a stunning display of singing as well as trumpet and oboe virtuosity from soloists of the very fine original instrument group, new to me, Il Complesso Barocco.

The recording is magnificent. The lovely spacious acoustic of Bayreuthís "other" opera house, the Markgräfliches Opernhaus, is beautifully captured. This building is one of the finest of its kind in Europe and the auditorium sounds on this recording as superb as it sounds (and looks) in reality. The extra track in which Donna Leon reads aloud from her novel is also a striking demonstration of the recording art, apart from being interesting in content. I hope for more from this source. The booklet talks about Curtisís plans to record Handelís Radamisto and Tolomeo. If he happens on this site, Mr Curtis, please will you record them in Bayreuth?

Dave Billinge


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