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George Friederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Opera Arias
see end of review for track details
Dame Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Catherine Bott (soprano, CD2)
The Brandenburg Consort/Roy Goodman
rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, September 1995 (CD1), January 1997 (CD2), and June 1999 (CD3).
HYPERION CDS44271/3 [3 CDs: 75.39 + 76.06 + 70.40]

Who could turn down a three-disc set of Handel’s opera arias sung by the splendid Emma Kirkby? Not me, that’s for sure. Kirkby’s voice has long entranced me in her recordings, ranging from madrigals to cantatas, from Dowland to Purcell. Her fluid soprano is the perfect fit in baroque and early music recordings, and her grace has charmed stages around the world for many years.
Hyperion has collected three CDs of Handel’s arias and overtures and released them in this three CD set. The original titles were Handel Opera Arias, The Rival Queens, and Opera Arias and Overtures 2. The titles show that these are not merely solo arias, but the first and third discs contain both arias and overtures, offering attractive programs from 18 of Handel’s operas. The second disc, which contains arias and duets, also features Catherine Bott; it contains extracts from five operas, with overtures, arias and recitatives.
The selection of works is extremely varied, showing the wide range of operatic writing that Handel practiced. Some of the arias are his slow, strophic numbers, with limited accompaniment, and others are more lively songs with full orchestra. Kirkby’s voice fits will with these different types of music, though at times, in the arias with less accompaniment, she holds back too much, sounding a bit stilted. She seems to prefer the pieces where she can let go with the full range of her voice and its volume. While she is not a loud soprano, she certainly can project.
Some arias that stand out for me are Ah! spietato, from Amadigi di Gaula, which sounds like a Bach aria with its slow, flowing lines and oboe obligato; the melody is quintessential Handel, and Kirkby makes this music sound ethereal. V’adoro, pupille, the wonderful highlight from Giulio Cesare in Egitto, is another aria where Kirkby’s voice fits almost perfectly to the music. While it might have been better with the orchestra being a bit less prominent, this song is sublime. In Cor di padre, from Tamerlano, Kirkby shows how beautiful Handel’s music can be without excessive vibrato, which is - alas - often overused. She uses vibrato as the ornament that it should be, not warbling every note, but allowing the purity of her voice to come through the music unadorned.
This collection is a fine set for fans of Emma Kirkby or of Handel, and it is great to see Hyperion repackaging these three discs at a nice price. Each disc is a self-contained program, and can be listened to as such, and all three discs are full to the brim, offering more than three-and-a-half hours of Emma. What more could you ask?
Kirk McElhearn

see also review by Brian Wilson

Track listing
CD1 [75:39]
Arias and Overtures from the first part of Handel’s operatic career, 1704–1726
Second Overture in G minor [4:26]
Vedrai s’ a tuo dispetto Act 3 [4:39]
Rodrigo HWV3 Perché viva il caro sposo Act 3 [6:06]
Rinaldo HWV7 Vo’ far guerra Act 2 [5:11]
Silla HWV10:
Overture: Largo — Allegro [4:38]
Andante [2:02]
Amadigi di Gaula HWV11:
Ah! spietato Act 1 [6:05]
Desterò dall’ empia Dite Act 2 [5:30]
Giulio Cesare in Egitto HWV17 V’adoro, pupille Act 2 [5:21]
Tamerlano HWV18:
Overture: [Largo] — Allegro [2:50]
Adagio — Menuet [1:47]
Cor di padre Act 3 [8:24]
Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi HWV19:
Ombre, piante Act 1 [5:39]
Scipione HWV20:
Overture: [Largo] — Allegro [3:52]
Allegro [2:00]
March Act 1 [1:11]
Scoglio d’immota fronte Act 2 [5:06]
CD2 [76:06]
Arias and Duets from the era of The Rival Queens, 1726–1728
Alessandro HWV21:
Overture [5:04]
Sinfonia Act 1 [2:17]
Recitative Che vidi? Che mirai! Act 1 Duet [1:38]
Aria No, più soffrir non voglio Act 1 Lisaura [3:34]
Aria Placa l’alma Act 1 Duet [2:34]
Recitative Solitudine amate Act 1 — Rossane [2:19]
Aria Aure, fonti Act 2 Rossane [3:32]
Recitative Pur troppo veggio Act 2 — Lisaura [0:21]
Aria Che tirannia d’amor! Act 2 Lisaura [6:51]
Recitative Svanisci oh reo timore Act 2 — Rossane [0:26]
Aria Dica il falso Act 2 Rossane [4:31]
Admeto, re di Tessaglia HWV22:
Recitative Il ritratto d’Admeto Act 2 — Duet [2:11]
Aria La sorte mia vacilla Act 2 Antigona [3:18]
Aria Quest’è dunque la fede Act 2 — Alceste [0:29]
Aria Vedrò fra poco Act 2 Alceste [4:12]
Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra HWV23:
Aria Morte vieni Act 3 [2:51]
Recitative A me nel mio rossore Act 3 — Duet [1:49]
Aria Quando non vede Act 3 Pulcheria [5:23]
Siroe, re di Persia HWV24:
Recitative A costei, che dirò? Act 2 — Duet [2:20]
Aria L’aura non sempre Act 2 Laodice [3:35]
Recitative Si diversi sembiante Act 2 — Emira [0:14]
Aria Non vi piacque, ingiusti dei Act 2 Emira [5:35]
Tolomeo, re di Egitto HWV25:
Recitative E dove, e dove mai Act 1 — Seleuce [0:19]
Aria Fonti amiche Act 1 Seleuce [6:15]
Aria Ti pentirai, crudel Act 3 Elisa [3:09]
CD3 [70:40]
Arias and Overtures from the latter part of Handel’s operatic career, 1729–1741
Lotario HWV26:
Overture [5:58]
Scherza in mar Act 1 [5:27]
Partenope HWV27 Io ti levo Act 1 [6:15]
Ezio HWV29 Caro padre Act 1 [5:17]
Sosarme, re di Media HWV30:
Dite pace Act 1 [5:32]
Vorrei, né pur saprei Act 3 [3:14]
Atalanta HWV35 Overture [5:41]
Arianna in Creta HWV32 Son qual stanco Act 2 [8:13]
Alcina HWV34 Ah! Ruggiero — Ombre pallide Act 3 [7:23]
Berenice HWV38 Chi t:intende? Act 3 [8:38]
Deidamia HWV42:
Overture [3:52]


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