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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Lotario (1729) - Highlights
Overture
Gavotte
Rammantati, cor mio
Non pensi
Vanne e colei che adori
Se il mar promette calma
Già mi sembra
Scherza in mar la navicella
Tiranna, ma bella
Non t’inganni la speranza
Non disperi peregrine
Non sempre invendicata
Impara, codardo
Si, bel sembiante
Gioie e serto
Nuria Rial (soprano) – Adelaide
Lawrence Zazzo (counter tenor) – Lotario
Andreas Karasiak (tenor) - Berengario
Annette Markert (alto) - Matilde
Huub Claessens (bass) - Clodomiro
Kammerorchester Basel Barok/Paul Goodwin
Recorded live at the Martinskirche, Basel, June 5th 2004
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 902 [70.01]

 

Lotario (1729) is one of the least well known of Handel’s operas. It was written in the aftermath of the catastrophic losses incurred by the composer’s opera company following the Haymarket audience’s lack of enthusiasm and the exiting of the castrato Senesino, a prize draw on the London stage. It was further disadvantaged by a relatively unfamiliar cast and a tale of knightly derring-do that didn’t appeal at all to popular taste, which much preferred the farce Hurlothrumbo, which replaced the rapidly cancelled Lotario. The libretto was in effect a wholesale importation from Antonio Salvi’s Adelaide, set to music by Orlandini and premiered in 1726, though Handel would have heard a 1729 Venice production of it. For Handel’s production the recitative was tightened and there was quite an amount of new textual material.

Whatever contemporary response may have been there’s a fair degree of captivating music with six arias alone from the first act. This live performance derives from a concert (unstaged) given at the Martinskirche in Basel with forces directed by Paul Goodwin. The audience is unnervingly quiet throughout but so successfully taken are some of the arias that I can’t believe they sat there quite so meekly; some post performance patching doubtless. The only audience reaction otherwise comes as a triumphal roar at the end; merited as well.

The soloists are all young and the band is crisply accomplished (12-3-2-2 in the strings). Goodwin directs warmly and his forces respond accordingly – from the well-accented Overture onwards they are invariably alert. The American counter tenor Lawrence Zazzo takes the title role and one can hear from his first aria, Rammantati, cor mio – this is an all-aria set and there are no recitatives and only one duet and one chorus – how well deployed is his voice. It’s not a typical voice for a European operatic or choral counter tenor and is much more the very feminine American soprano cultivated by, say, David Daniels. It’s also strongly supported at the bottom of its compass and flares well at the top though very occasionally there’s a little unsteadiness in the middle of his range. His proves his "soprano" spurs in Già mi sembra with some virtuosic and declamatory power and contributes to the fine duet with real sensitivity, as one would expect of this increasingly renowned singer.

Tenor Andreas Karasiak has a light, suave and persuasive voice though limited opportunities to deploy it – only the one aria. Annette Markert proves a strong mezzo with a powerful presence and a vibrato under perfect expressive control. She announces herself with a fine Vanne e colei che adori and an equally good Impara, codardo. Bass Huub Claessens also takes two arias. He aspirates a touch and the divisions can be a little sticky but he’s a really characterful singer, full here of bumptious presence, though he can’t really make the extensions in Non t’inganni la speranza. Which leaves just the soprano Nuria Rial as Adelaide. She’s got a slightly breathy voice but it’s highly attractive and her runs are remarkably fleet, accurate and better still, crystal clear. She is equally splendid in both her arias; I suspect the earlier would have generated the more applause but Non sempre invendicata shows her in just as good a light.

Just occasionally some of Goodwin’s rallentandi sounded rather forced and imposed, rather than emerging naturally from the impetus of the singing and the dynamism of the music making itself but this is of small account. The performances are full of verve and life. Texts and notes are in Italian, German and English and the church acoustic is unobtrusively, if slightly reverberantly, fine. There’s a complete recording on DHM, which I’ve not heard. If one can accept the highlights concept then this is a successful disc. It serves however to whet appetite for the complete recording that these forces did give at the time and which, presumably for economic reasons, we don’t have. That’s a shame – but these stand-alone highlights make a sure showing.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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