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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Rodrigo (1707) [144.49] (1); Radamisto (1720) [174.02] (2); Admeto (1727) [216.46] (3); Fernando, Re di Castiglia (1732) [149.19] (4); Arminio (1737) [146.26] (5); Deidamia (1741) [180.55] (6)
Rodrigo - Gloria Banditelli (mezzo) (1); Esilena - Sandrine Piau (soprano) (1); Florinda - Elena Cecchi Fedi (soprano) (1); Giuliano - Rufus Muller (tenor) (1); Evanco - Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) (1); Fernando -Caterina Calvi (contralto) (1)
Tiridate - Zachary Stains (tenor) (2); Fraarte - Dominique Labelle (soprano) (2); Farasmene - Carlo Lepore (bass) (2); Polissena - Patrizia Ciofi (soprano) (2); Radamisto - Joyce DiDonato (mezzo) (2); Zenobia - Maite Beaumont (mezzo) (2); Tigrane - Laura Cherici (soprano) (2)
Admeto - Rene Jacobs (counter-tenor) (3); Alceste - Rachel Yakar (soprano) (3); Ercole/Apollo - Ulrik Cold (bass) (3); Orindo - Rita Dams (alto) (3); Trasimede - James Bowman (counter-tenor) (3); Antigona - Jill Gomez (soprano) (3); Meraspe/ Voce - Max van Egmond (bass) (3)
Fernando - Lawrence Zazzo (counter-tenor) (4); Elvida - Veronica Cangemi (soprano) (4); Dionisio - Filippo Adami (tenor) (4); Isabella - Marianne Pizzolato (mezzo) (4); Alfonso - Neal Banerjee (counter-tenor) (4); Sancio - Max Emanuel Cencic (counter-tenor) (4); Altomaro - Antonio Abete (bass) (4)
Arminio - Vivica Genaux (mezzo) (5); Tusnelda - Geraldine McGreevy (soprano) (5); Sigismondo - Dominque Labelle (soprano) (5); Ramise - Manuela Custer (mezzo) (5); Var - Luigi Petroni (tenor) (5); Tullio - Syste Buwalda (counter-tenor) (5); Segeste - Riccardo Ristori (bass) (5)
Deidamida - Simone Kermes (soprano) (6); Nerea - Dominque Labelle (soprano) (6); Achille - Anna Maria Panzarella (soprano) (6); Ulisse - Anna Bonitatibus (mezzo) (6); Fenice - Furio Zanasi (baritone) (6); Licomede - Antonio Abete (baritone) (6)
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
rec. (1) - July 1997, Basilica dell'Osservanza, Siena, Italy; (2) - September 2003, Palazzo Doria Pamphili, San Martino al Cimino, Viterbo, Italy; (3) - May 1977, Menonitenkirche, Haarlem, Netherlands; (4) - April 2005, Tonhalle, St. Gallen, Switzerland; (5) - July 2000, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy; (6) - July 2001, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6958622 [15 CDs + 1 CDR: 1045.21]
Experience Classicsonline

Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco have made a number of recordings of Handel operas over the years. Recently they seem to have upped the tempo and have been releasing fine accounts of major operas such as Alcina and Rodelinda. In this boxed set Virgin have re-packaged six of their recordings made over a 25 year period. None of the operas is in the top six but each is unusual and interesting.  

is Handel's first opera to be performed in Italy and his second surviving opera. Radamisto is here recorded in Handel's first version, it being one of the few Handel operas where the revised version is preferred. Admeto is his fascinating encounter with the Alceste myth. Fernando is Alan Curtis's reconstruction of Handel's original version of Sosarme. Arminio is one of Handel's underrated scores and Deidamia is his final encounter with the opera seria form. 

was Handel's first opera for Italy, premiered in Florence in 1707 under the title Vincer se stesso e la maggior vittoria. Parts of the score are missing, though some have turned up in the last twenty years. This recording uses Curtis's own edition, which restores as much as possible and introduces some music from other Handel sources to make things good. Curtis cuts the dances, which is a shame as these give the work a slightly more distinctive form. More worryingly, Curtis has cut the recitative quite drastically, presumably to get the opera to fit onto 2 CDs. In its original form Rodrigo evidently has a great deal more recitative than is provided here; in places the recitative is so short that it seems like mere linkaging between the arias.

Like Agrippina - Handel's other surviving opera from his Italian period - the arias in Rodrigo are generally rather shorter than in his more mature operas. Though he does provide more extended numbers; Act 1 finishes with a fine substantial piece for Esilena - the heroine and Rodrigo's Queen, sung by Sandrine Piau - in which Piau produces a wonderful cantilena.

The action is the usual dynastic shuffling set in Visigothic Spain with Rodrigo (Gloria Banditelli) as the King, Esilena (Sandrine Piau) as his Queen, Rufus Muller and Elena Cecchi Fedi are the brother and sister duo Florinda and Giulino. Evanco, once King of Aragon, is sung by Roberta Invernizzi and Fernando, Rodrigo's General, by Caterina Calvi. In the original cast Handel used a soprano castrato for Rodrigo, alto castrato for Fernando and a female soprano for Evanco.

The best singing comes from Sandrine Piau as the heroine Esilena; she does fine justice to the dazzling sequence of arias which Handel gives her. In addition to the close of Act 2, she gets wonderful pair of contrasting arias in succession in Act 2. Piau is technically adept and has a lovely lyrical voice which she displays well here.

By contrast, Elena Cecchi Fedi is technically adept but has rather a tendency to sing with edgy tone, sometimes verging on the shrill. It may be that she is trying to characterise Florinda as a shrew (this was Stanley Sadie's generous thought in his original Gramophone Review). Whether deliberate or no, her tone quality verges on the unpleasant at times and can be a bit wearing.

Gloria Banditelli sings Rodrigo with good firm, dark contralto tones; she doesn't fear to punch out the coloratura in a vividly virile manner where necessary. But when necessary she can sing with a lovely lyrical charm and is admirably even in the faster virtuoso passages. She creates a strikingly direct impression as the military ruler.

Roberta Invernizzi is rather more uneven as Evanco. She is beautifully evocative in Evanco's Act 2 aria Prestami un solo daro but in other places here passagework is effortful and uneven.

Rufus Muller's Giuliano is vividly virile, but with a rather bullying tone in his first aria. He modifies this for his later ones and turns in a brilliant performance in Spirti fieri, Giuliano's first Act 3 aria. Caterina Calvi, as Fernando, has a rather soft-grained voice which can sound akin to a counter tenor. Her contributions are creditable though her runs are sometimes laboured.

Handel obviously made a great deal of effort when writing this opera, presumably intending to impress the Medici who were the sponsors. The accompaniments include a variety of concertante moments for harpsichord, for flute and for viola along with a striking aria in Act 2, which Rodrigo sings to the accompaniment of unison cellos.

Radamisto was premiered by Handel in April 1720 with his long-time supporter Margherita Durastanti in the title role. This was her first London performance but they had performed together a lot in Italy and she had sung the title role in Agrippina. You may wonder at Curtis's casting of DiDonato in the title role but DiDonato is quite a high mezzo and Durastanti had a relatively low soprano voice. In summer 1720 Durastanti announced that she was pregnant and in autumn that year the castrato Senesino arrived in London. Handel substantially re-wrote Radamisto for Senesino in the title role. This is one of those rare occasions where Handel's revised version is preferred to the original, so it is illuminating to have this recording of Handel's original; we don't quite get the whole thing: in Act 3 Curtis substitutes a couple of arias from the later version.

In his original cast Handel had only one castrato, a soprano castrato in the role of Fraarte, Radamisto and Tigrane being played by women; with the villain, Tiridate played by a tenor. In the revised version Tiridate was played by a bass, with Durastanti moving to Zenobia.

The opera is a prime example of the serious opera which Handel wrote during the first Royal Academy period. The plot is rather complex and contrived, but the effects are brilliant as the characters are run through the mill, each being put in a succession of awkward and terrible situations; thus the singers get to react and show off their brilliance. The plot concerns the warring lengths that Tiridate (Zachary Stains) will go to to get his hands on his sister-in-law Zenobia (Maite Beaumont), wife of Radamisto (Joyce DiDonato). Its theme of a warring Royal Family was probably felt to be relevant to the quarrelling between George I and the Prince of Wales. The opera was chosen to mark a short-lived public reconciliation between the two.

Radamisto is finely sung by Joyce DiDonato. She is dignified, darkly beautiful and manages to be sublime in her Act 2 aria Ombra cara, whilst producing vivid streams of notes in Vanne sorella. As his wife Zenobia, Maite Beaumont is nobly dignified and suffers beautifully. Her opening cavatina to Act 2 is especially notable.

Dominique Labelle is technically superb as Fraarte, Tiridate's brother. She gets several tricky numbers and the notes seem to just run off her voice in the most delightful of manners. Patrizia Ciofi is fragile and touching as the put upon Polissenna, wife of Tiridate. Her passage-work is not always ideal but she creates the long-suffering character finely.

Polissena and Radamisto's father, Farasmene, is sung in a suitably virile manner by Carlo Lepore. Tigrane, who is in love of Polissena, is sung by Laura Cherci with an ideally focused voice and bright tones, where necessary contributing some lovely even runs. Though beyond technique, I am never sure whether Cherci is fully engaged with the drama.

This issue of engagement with the drama is made all the more apparent when it comes to the villain of the piece, Tiridate. Zachary Stains sings with flexibility and fluidity, but his tone is rather edgy and gets thin at the upper levels. His aria in Act 3, to which Handel adds parts for two horns, simply fails to convince of the character's villainy. To make this type of drama come alive, we need a little more than nice singing. The character must come out through the music, so that villains should be villainous and heroes heroic. 

For this piece to work as drama, we must believe Tiridate capable of waging a terrible war simply so that he can possess his sister-in-law, and frankly we just don't. The rest of the cast articulate the drama neatly and effectively. Zachary Stains apart, they all sing completely beautifully; there are lots of lovely clean even voices here. But for most of Acts 1 and 2, no-one sounds really under pressure, at the end of their tether. The action becomes more moving, more dramatic in Act 3 but I would have happily sacrificed a little perfection of tone to gain more immediacy in drama.

An added problem is perhaps that of voice types, something which can be laid partly at Handel's door. Of the five upper voices, three are sopranos and one is a low soprano - here sung by high mezzo Joyce DiDonato. The lowest of the upper voices is Maite Beaumont in the female role of Zenobia; this makes difficult the attempt at masculine vocal characterisation by the two sopranos singing the male parts. But this is another one of those operas where a little more differentiation in vocal timbre and character would be an advantage. In an opera with five high voices in the main characters, having rather better distinguished vocal qualities would be a great advantage. That said there is some stunning singing here and I would not want to be without the recording.

Admeto was written during the period when Handel had sopranos Cuzzoni and Faustina, and castrato Senesino in his cast. This means that the opera had to be written with a moderately balanced pair of female roles for Cuzzoni and Faustina. The story is the standard one of Alceste sacrificing her life for that of her husband Admeto. But the libretto is based on a Venetian one, so it has a sub-plot which includes rather more wit and irony than is found in Gluck's classical version. In Handel's version, Alceste is rescued from Hades at the beginning of Act 2. The remainder of the opera deals with how after Alceste's death, Admeto returns to a previous love Antigona, who he had previously rejected and with Alceste's jealousy.

This recording is the odd one out as it was recorded in 1977, some twenty years or more before any of the other operas in this set. The wonder is that it fits in so well, though there is a certain slowness and heaviness in the recitative. The difference in date also means that Curtis is working with a radically different group of singers.

René Jacobs is rather an acquired taste in the title role, and I must admit that it is a taste that I have yet to acquire. The way he attacks the notes in a flat - straight-attack - manner is very distinctive, but creates a quality to the voice which makes it sound as if he might be singing flat (as in pitch). This would not matter if his manner was more suitably heroic, but it just isn't. That said, he does contribute moments of great beauty and is never less than expressive. But Admeto, as the Senesino role, gets plenty of arias so if you react to Jacobs as I do, then this can be a problem.

As his two women, Rachel Yakar and Jill Gomez are nearly ideal. Yakar sings Alceste with pure, clear tone and is moving in Alceste's slower numbers, whilst being vividly dramatic when necessary; though it must be admitted that her runs are a little smudged at times. Jill Gomez is similarly fluent and charming; she can be touching and emotional with some neatly done virtuoso passages. Act 2 concludes with a pair of arias, one for each heroine; here Handel pulled out all the stops and so do Yakar and Gomez.

This is one of the few discs in the set where the tonal differentiation between the principals is distinct enough. Yakar and Gomez have quite differing voices, as do Jacobs and James Bowman who plays Admeto's brother Trasimede. Bowman sings with his usual liquid tones. Ulrik Cold and Max van Egmond contribute fine performances in a variety of smaller, but important roles. Cold's opening aria as Ercole is brilliantly done. And Rita Dams sings Orindo's single aria neatly.

Admeto is one of those plots which require a degree of suspension of disbelief. Alceste's behaviour when coming back from Hades is such that you want to shake her and tell her not to be so stupid. You have to put all thought of Gluck behind you and take the opera simply as an opera seria. But if you can do this, then there is much to enjoy.

For his 1731-32 opera season at the King's Theatre Handel wrote two new operas, Ezio (setting a libretto by Metastasio) and a new opera based on Salvi's libretto for Dionisio, Re di Portogallo. His company had rather changed. Senesino, remained as did his prima donna, Strada, and the contralto Merighi, but other singers had left and were replaced by a group of singers new to the London stage. This group included Pinnacci, one of the finest tenors to work for Handel, and the great bass, Montagnana.

Ezio failed with the public, it ran for only five performances. This seems to have given Handel and librettist Paolo Rolli rather cold feet. Handel had around two-thirds of his next opera written. It was to be called Fernando, Re di Castiglia. In the light of Ezio's failure, Handel cut the recitative of the new opera even further, renamed it Sosarme, Re di Medea, and renamed most of the characters.

Handel's decision to cut the recitative even further is understandable; London audiences could be famously intolerant of long stretches of recitative. Handel removed a further 134 bars of recitative, the majority from Act 1. As to why the opera was renamed and relocated, Winton Dean has speculated that someone must have warned Handel that an opera which portrayed Portugal in an unfavourable light would not sit well with King George as Portugal was Britain's oldest ally.

The renaming and relocating of the opera had virtually no impact on the plot, but the removal of the recitative had a rather catastrophic effect on the complex plot. The opera is musically strong and Alan Curtis has taken the decision to restore as much as possible of the original recitative. Playing the opera in its original location with the original character names leaves the drama undisturbed, but helps to differentiate between the two versions.

The main problem with this restoration is that Curtis has been able to restore 100 bars to Act 1 and 34 to Act 2, but nothing to Act 3 as Handel wrote this after his final set of cuts to the recitative. This means that the opera, as performed by Curtis, is possibly a little unbalanced as compared to what Handel was intending, before the failure of Ezio. But his restoration does give us a glimpse of the fuller opera which Handel was contemplating, with more detail to the complex plotting. Also, Handel's final revisions were inevitably very rushed and some details, such as the fuller version of Alfonso's accompanied recitative in Act 1, are better in the original.

The plot, such as it is, is the sort of complex dynastic quarrel beloved of opera seria writers. Such plots enabled the librettist to put his characters into a series of strong situations; it is these episodes that matter and neither librettist, nor composer, seemed to worry if the way the characters got there was a little contrived.

Dionisio, King of Portugal is struggling with a rebellion by his eldest son, Alfonso, with Dionisio besieging the city of Coimbra which is held by the rebels. Alfonso is jealous of Dionisio's natural son, Sancio, but this jealousy has been fanned by the evil machinations of Dionisio's counsellor, Altomaro. Dionisio's daughter, Elvida, is betrothed to Fernando, King of Castile, but the two are prevented from meeting by the struggle. Elvida and her mother, Isabella, are held inside the Royal palace in Coimbra. Eventually Alfonso and Dionisio resolve to meet in single combat, but this is foiled by Fernando and all ends satisfactorily.

Sosarme has not been that strongly served on disc and with the expansion of the recitative in the new version, it is heartening to report that the cast on this version deliver the recitative in a highly dramatic and involving manner. For anyone following the plot in detail, we get a vividly portrayed drama played out before us. Even if you don't follow the entire libretto, then the results are intensely involving.

When it comes to details of individual vocal performance, Curtis's cast are a little more variable. Though the final performance is creditable, this is regrettably not one of the most top-drawer casts with whom Curtis has worked.

In the Senesino role of Fernando, Lawrence Zazzo is suitably dramatic. His more martial passage-work is apt to turn into bluster but in the more lyric passages, Zazzo spins a lovely line. He and Elvida (Veronica Cangemi) share two lovely duets - the opera is notable for having three duets. Zazzo can be quite generous with his use of vibrato but it is never overpowering and he retains a good sense of line.

Cangemi is also adept at spinning long lines and floating some wonderful high notes. There are moments when her passage-work sounds smudged and in her final aria there are hints of her top being squeezed. Cangemi also gets a strong accompagnato at the beginning of Act 2 when her lovely long soprano line is supported by a jagged string accompaniment. Neither Cangemi nor Zazzo are perfect but at their best, both are fine talents displayed in a suitably dramatic manner.

Two more of the cast almost equal Zazzo and Cangemi. As Altomaro, Antonio Abete, displays a fine, focused baritone voice, which is attractively grainy and suitably expressive. All he really lacks are the resonant low notes required of him in his opening aria - Montagnana, the original Altomaro had a very wide range. Marianna Pizzolato is a trifle more variable as Isabella (Elvida's mother and Dionisio's wife). At her best she is a fine dramatic singer, with some good and finely etched tone and line and crisp passage-work, but she does not always manage to stick to this high standard. She and Alfonso (Neal Banerjee) share a duet at the opening of Act 2 which is one of Handel's rarer duets of opposition, with the two singers portraying complementary points of view.  

Neither tenor is really in the same class. Filippo Adami, as Dionisio, has a regrettably dry-sounding voice with a less than ideal grainy tone. Technically he is perfectly OK, but fails to ignite dramatically; he just does not bring one of Handel's more challenging tenor parts to life. Neal Banerjee as Alfonso is inclined to bluster and fails to provide a good feel for the musical line.

As Sancio, Max Emanuel Cencic has a markedly feminine tone with a tight vibrato; he is undoubtedly a strongly dramatic singer though his passage-work is not ideal.

This is creditable performance that falls down mainly on detail. A couple of cast changes to strengthen the cast would have turned this from a recommendable, but not ideal performance, into one that would have been outstanding. Still we do get a highly dramatic presentation of one of Handel's more underrated operas. 
Like Sosarme, Arminio had its recitative cut to the bone by the librettist Antonio Salvi, and Handel seems to have responded to the challenges of the rival Opera of the Nobility with rather shorter arias. The opera has tended to get ignored in the past and when this recording was first issued in 2001 it was a notable milestone.

Vivica Genaux sings the title part, which was originally written for an alto castrato. Genaux sings with a fine line and can be suitably virile when necessary, which is always useful when playing a trousers role. And in a pair of arias at the start of Act 2 she shows a nice turn for bravura as well as a firm and vividly dramatic way with the music. Interestingly the opera opens with a duet for Arminio and his wife Tusnelda (Geraldine McGreevy). This is beautifully sung and involving from the first moment; they have you hooked.

It must be admitted that McGreevy's passage-work is sometimes a little generalised, but she has a fragile-sounding, attractive voice with a nice gloss of expressive plangency. In her final aria she also combines brilliance with bold dramatics.

The second couple, Tusnelda's brother Sigismondo and his wife Ramise (Arminio's sister) are sung by Dominique Labelle and Manuela Custer. Here Labelle and Custer are at the mercy of Handel's original casting as Sigismondo was originally sung by a soprano castrato and Ramise by a contralto. Labelle has a firm, but rather soft-grained voice; her Sigismondo is finely sung but insufficiently virile. I can't complain too much because Labelle's singing is consistently rewarding and musical, but it would have been nice to feel the character was less feminine.

Custer has a lovely dark-toned voice and can be more virile than Labelle; you definitely know who wears the trousers in this marriage. There were, however, moments in her Act 2 aria when she sounded a little over careful; still, in Act 3 she recovers form and delivers a bravura account of her final aria.

Sytse Buwalda, as the Roman captain Tullio, is rather soft-grained and shallow of tone but gives a creditable account of his arias. Luigi Petroni as Varo, the Roman General, has a pleasantly focused voice but his final aria, to which Handel adds horns, is frankly rather underpowered. Bass Riccardo Ristori impresses as Segeste.

Arminio is never going to be top-drawer Handel but there is much lovely music in it. Act 2 is particularly strong with an interested sequence of arias which includes a slow one for Arminio reminiscent of He was despised. This performance is not perfect, but the cast impresses nevertheless and make a very strong case.

Deidamia was Handel's last Italian opera and, as such, you would expect it to be some sort of summation of his career in opera seria. But by the time of his final Italian operas you rather feel that his interest had passed on to oratorio. Deidamia was first performed in 1741; Handel had already written Saul and was about to start on Messiah
Public taste seems to have moved on from the great serious operas of Handel's Royal Academy days. His contemporaries were writing operas with shorter, lighter arias and Handel experimented with adaptations of his style. He also chose librettos with some satirical element, but the results do not seem to have been all that popular.

Deidamia deals with the episode in Achilles' life where he is disguised as a girl and is visited by Ulysses (Ulisse) to persuade him to join the planned Trojan War. Deidamia is a princess who is in love with Achilles.

The four main roles (Achille, Ulisse, Deidamia, Nerea) are all written for high voices. Handel used three female sopranos and an alto castrato, but here Alan Curtis uses four women; Simone Kermes (soprano) as Deidamia, Dominique Labelle (soprano) as Nerea, Anna Maria Panzarella (soprano) as Achille and Anna Bonitatibus (mezzo) as Ulisse. They are joined by two baritones, Furio Zanasi as Fenice and Antonio Abete as Licomede.

The four women's voices are not dissimilar, which means that it is rather tricky to follow the opera without the aid of the libretto. Also neither Anne Bonitatibus nor Anna Maria Panzarella sounds particularly virile or masculine. Both are technically excellent, but in style and attitude they sound very feminine and, at times, positively sexy.

My recent live encounters with Simone Kermes have been with her incarnating some of Handel's bad girls, so it is interesting to find her here as the heroine Deidamia. Her vocal style is quite distinctive, not to say mannered. She has a remarkable range and flexibility which she uses to striking effect; though she does have a tendency to include excessive high notes in her decorations. There are many beautiful moments but her tendency to sing with fragile sound and husky tones may not be to everyone's taste. In fact, I rather longed for a soprano who sang with a smoother, more well defined line. Kermes seems to be at her best in the tender moments of the character and here she shines.

As her confidant Nerea, Dominique Labelle impresses greatly. She sings musically, shapes her phrases beautifully, and is capable of producing nicely even runs. All in all a pleasantly characterful account of the role, sung by a voice with a real Handelian ping to it.

Anna Bonitatibus, as Ulisse, has a light clear mezzo which produces a beautiful sound and is highly musical. As pure singing, hers is some of the best Handel singing on the disc. But she lacks the darkness and virility that some singers might have brought to the role, though it is hard to feel too hard done by where singing is like this.

Anna Maria Panzarella as Achille is sometimes quite feminine; here you must allow for the fact that Achille is meant to be youthful and in drag. Her opening aria in Act 1 is wonderfully vivid, and her big aria at the end of Act 2 is technically impressive, in other places she demonstrates a fine ring to her voice.

The two baritones, Furio Zanasi and Antonio Abete, have relatively small roles but both impress with the mellifluousness of their delivery and evenness of their runs. Both are admirably lacking in bluster.

Deidamia might not be one of Handel's greatest operas but it has some lovely music and a dramaturgy which can be effective. Whilst not given an ideal performance here, Curtis and his forces make a good case for the opera and make it sound convincingly like drama.

On all the discs Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco accompany in exemplary fashion. True, they do not always dig as deeply as they might in Handel's richer, more complex numbers. But their crisp, lively accompaniment is one of the constants throughout all of these discs and they contribute some exemplary instrumental obbligatos.

Another constant, and less welcome, is the freedom which Curtis gives his singers to interpolate elaborate ornamentation and high notes in the da capo sections of the arias. Simone Kermes is a particular offender when it comes to the added high notes, but on most of the discs there are examples of over-fussy ornamentation and effective recomposing of the vocal line.

The set comes on 15 CDs, with a booklet containing cast details and track listings. Full librettos are included on a separate CDR in the box. This CDR contains the PDFs of the original CD booklets, so you get introductory articles plus libretti and translations, which can be viewed on screen or downloaded to your PC. The drawback is that the PDFs still use the CD booklet page size so that if you want to print them out, the result is rather a waste of paper.

Whilst I might quibble about various details in this set, it is nonetheless impressive value. Virgin offers six strong recordings of Handel operas for around £40: incredible value. None of the operas on the disc are first rank Handel but all are interesting and all receive convincing and creditable performances. If you are new to Handel operas, then it may be best if you look elsewhere. But if you are looking for an economic way to extend your Handel library then this is ideal.

Robert Hugill



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