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George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Giulio Cesare in Egitto: Da tempeste [6:16]
Rinaldo: Lascia ch’io pianga [5:02]
Alcina: Tornami a vagheggiar [4:32]
Teseo: Dolce riposo, ed innocente pace [3:52];
Ira, sdegni, e furore … O stringer˛ el’ sen [4:36]
Apollo e Dafne: Felicissima quest’alma [5:50]
Ariodante: Il mio crudel martoro [11:12]
Rinaldo: Vo’ far guerra [7:32]
Amadigi di Gaula: Ah, spietato [5:33]
Semele: Myself I shall adore [7:34]
Giulio Cesare in Egitto: Pianger˛, la sorte mia [6:20]
Semele: Endless pleasure, endless love [3:32]
Danielle de Niese (soprano)
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
no recording dates or venues given
DECCA 475 8746 [71:52]
Experience Classicsonline

This young Australian-born soprano has risen to the stars within just a few years, making her European debut in 2005. She has appeared in a number of operas, including Gianni Schicchi, Falstaff (Nanetta), Le nozze di Figaro and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les SortilŔges. First and foremost she has specialised in baroque, primarily Handel, so it was a natural choice to select a dozen Handel arias for her debut recital.
She makes a flying start with Da tempeste from Giulio Cesare, the opera in which she has reaped her greatest laurels. As a calling card for a promising singer she could hardly have made a more suitable choice. ‘Promising’ may seem like a parsimonious adjective with which to greet a richly equipped artist. Even though she seems fully fledged in this first number I do have a couple of minor reservations later in the programme. Here, though, she appears infallible: the fast coloratura poses no problems. She is perfectly assured in her forward drive, enhanced by the superb playing of Les Arts Florissant. Her intonation is spot on and the tone is crystal clear.
That she also possesses a beautiful voice becomes manifest in Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo. This wonderful, sighing aria, is sung with great sensitivity. The well-known Alcina aria is truly impressive and de Niese also makes the most of the first Teseo aria, one of Handel’s most enchanting pieces arrayed with fine instrumental solos.
The rarely heard aria from Apollo e Dafne is another winner both for the singing and the delicious accompaniment with plucked strings and a ravishingly beautiful oboe d’amore solo.
When we reach the monumental aria from Ariodante, the reservations begin to creep in. The singing is as vivid as before but there are also signs of strain, a widening of vibrato that seems a bad omen this early in her career. I understand that she wants to sing this marvellous music but she should probably have waited a few years. The martial Vo’ far guerra from Rinaldo also seems heavy going for her. Otherwise this is an impressive aria where a solo harpsichord is to the fore almost as much as the singer.
The arias from Semele and Pianger˛ from Giulio Cesare again suit her like a glove and thus the recital ends with flying colours. I do, however, have another comment; more a comment than pure criticism. Like some other baroque singers she sometimes starts a long note ‘straight’ - with no vibrato at all - and then she gradually opens up. This sometimes gives me a feeling that the straight tone is not 100% on pitch. A vibrato sometimes masks fallible intonation. But this may be a fault with me, that my ears register the tone differently. What most endeared this disc to me, besides Handel’s music which always has so much to offer, was the fact that it the performances are so very much alive. There isn’t a dull moment during these 70+ minutes. The honour for that has to be shared between Danielle de Niese and William Christie, whom I have always admired as one of the very best baroque conductors.
I have not seen the booklet and the back cover of the jewel-case, since I have listened to the promotion material only but I trust that Decca provide the missing information in the header as well as the sung texts and translations. The material also included a DVD with a live scene from Glyndebourne as well as clips from the recording sessions, an interview and a picture gallery. I suppose this will come with the finished product too. It definitely adds further to the personality that shines through the sound recording. The recorded sound is state-of-the-art.
I am looking forward to hearing more of Danielle de Niese: more Handel, truly, but maybe in the not too distant future Mozart, Donizetti and Massenet – three composers she mentions in interview.
G÷ran Forsling


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