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alternatively Crotchet

George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Da tempeste (Giulio Cesare) (1724) [5.57]
V’adoro, pupille (Giulio Cesare) (1724) [7.18]
Lascia ch’io pianga (Rinaldo) (1711) [4.05]
Tra le fiamme, Cantata HWV 170 (1707/8) [16.23]
Che sento? Oh Dio! (Giulio Cesare) (1724) [9.51]
No se emendara jamas Cantata HWV 140 (1707) [5.03]
Torna mi a vagheggiar (Alcina) (1735) [4.21]
Si, son quella (Alcina) (1735) [4.22]
Mi restano le lagrime (Alcina) (1735) [6.24]
Maria Bayo (soprano)
Capriccio Stravagante/Skip Sempe
rec. 11-16 April 1999, Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris
NAÏVE E8914 [63.47]

Maria Bayo’s 2000 recital of Handel arias and cantatas has now been re-issued as part of Naïve Baroque Voices. Bayo sings a selection of arias from Giulio Cesare, Rinaldo and Alcina along with the Italian cantata Tra le fiamme and the Spanish language cantata No se emendara jamas.
Bayo is accompanied by Skip Sempe and his Capriccio Stravagante, which guarantees lively and interesting accompaniment; though the size of the group is perhaps a little small for some of the operatic arias.
This singer has a rich, vivid voice and sings with liveliness, vivacity and accuracy; in many ways her singing on this disc is ideal. She comes over as a singer of great character who can bring drama through a fine musical performance.
In Cleopatra’s Da Tempeste, from Act 3 of Giulio Cesare, her performance is fast, crisp and very up front, her runs are fabulously clean and articulated. She gives the performance far more ‘welly’ than a singer like Valerie Masterson; her Cleopatra is obviously a creature to be reckoned with. That this can turn into a bit of a weakness is indicated by the second aria, Cleopatra’s V’adoro pupille from Act 2. Here Cleopatra is supposed to be seducing Cesar. Bayo’s singing is beautifully done but, for me, lacks the element of seduction; I have heard other singers bring a far greater element of soft allure to this aria. For all its musicality this performance lacks the necessary erotic element, though partial compensation is given by the lovely rich accompaniment.
Almirena’s Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo is profoundly moving and Bayo sings the aria with a fabulous sense of line. This is followed by the popular Italian cantata, Tra le fiamme. There are many versions of this on disc, but I have no complaints from this bright, lively and vivid account; in fact it is almost ideal.
Cleopatra’s Se pieta, from Act 2 of Giulio Cesare is prefaced by its recitative which proves to be a strong decision. The singer’s approach to the recitative is beautifully characterised and full of drama; on this showing I wished that more recitative could have been included in the disc. The aria itself is presented with a lovely, very focused sound and bright, forward tone, with a few quieter moments. Her way with the aria is convincing and beautiful, but is rather more up-front than some accounts that I have heard.
The Spanish cantata No se emendara jamas is something of a Handel rarity, but the chamber cantatas from his time in Italy do reflect something of the polyglot nature of the salons of the Italian counts and cardinals who were the young Handel’s patrons. That the piece was deliberately Spanish in style is indicated by the delicate guitar accompaniment. Bayo and Capriccio Stravagante play this as real chamber music, which of course it is.
The CD booklet repeats the story about the cantata being a result of romance between Handel and a Spanish lady, but this is not born out by the facts. The cantata was written in Rome in 1707 and was probably written for Count Ruspoli, Handel’s Roman patron.
Morgana’s Tornami a vagheggiar from Act 1 of Alcina is both brilliant and uplifting. Bayo follows this with 2 of Alcina’s arias from the same opera. These are beautifully done, but I get the sneaking suspicion that she is temperamentally more inclined towards the bad girls of Handelian opera seria.
In all these items, the singer is beautifully accompanied by the crisp, up-front playing of Skip Sempe and Capriccio Stravagante. It is a shame the space could not have been made for the group to play an item on their own.
This is a lovely recital and displays Bayo’s talents in this tricky repertoire. Her vocalisation in the Italian opera arias is nearly ideal, though temperamentally I think she might have been better off if rather more badly behaved sorceresses had been included on the disc.
Robert Hugill


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