Furore is the well-chosen word for a recital of, in the main,
incendiary arias by wronged, scorned or vengeful Handelian heroes
and heroines. The conduit for these passions is Joyce DiDonato,
a singer of remarkable dramatic power and instincts who now joins
a long and distinguished list of singers who have essayed all-Handel
discs in the last twelve months. It seems now to be almost de
The especially good
news is that a number of the arias are less well-known ones.
Crude furie degl'orridi abissi from Serse is the opener
and is an immediate index of her amazing declamatory powers,
the unerring ability in runs, excellent pitch, and above all
the sense of immediate characterisation that is established.
The voice here is under pretty much perfect control and is not
subject to the occasionally discursive and off putting mannerisms
others in this repertoire tend to inflict on it. The nobility
of utterance of her aria from Teseo, Dolce riposo, ed innocente
pace is immediately contrasted with the avenging fury of
O stringerò nel' sen. Programming throughout I should
note is a conspicuous success.
She covers huge
expressive ground in L'angue offeso mai riposa from Giulio
Cesare, colouring the line, inflecting it – note how she chews
over the word trucidata in particular, relishing every
syllable - and shadowed by an expressive oboist. There are scorching
moments throughout, not least, when called for, in recitatives.
Lend an ear to Orride larve, the recitative before the
aria Chiudetevi miei lumi from Admeto. which moves
from incendiary, explosive drama to sudden introspective desolation.
There in myrtle shades reclined comes as balm after the
fervid imaginings that precede it and here she fines down her
tone with discretion and imaginative intelligence. Hence,
Iris, hence away takes her to the slightly uncomfortable
lower mezzo range – something that happens once or twice in
the recital. It’s true also of Where shall I fly? which
though a tour de force of theatrical and histrionic drama
reveals the voice sometimes struggling to meet purely vocal
It was inevitable
that she should take on Scherza infida and it offers
something of an extreme example of her art. I wouldn’t seek
to judge the rectal as a whole from this single aria. It’s very
slow and DiDonato slightly scoops up the note. Stylistically
she plays – possibly plays havoc – with the ornaments especially
in the da capo. It’s all a mixture of expressively oddly inert
and technically exaggerated. She enjoys considerable rubati
and portamenti. The highest notes though are undeniably beautiful
and of the most ravishing intensity.
The booklet contains
a good essay, texts and translations. But it’s not immediately
clear from the documentation how much of this recital was recorded
live and how much without an audience – ‘recorded during and
after performances at the Théâtre de la Monnaie’ is what we’re
told. It may account for the exceptionally theatrical nature
of many of the performances, for their quivering intensity and
occasionally excessive character. What’s not in doubt is the
fulsome commitment revealed by this fearless singer.
see also Review
by Robert Hugill