Arias for Guadagni
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1759)
O Lord, whose mercies numberless (Saul) [5.28]
The raptur’d soul (Theodora) [8.19]
Yet, can I hear that dulcet lay (The Choice of Hercules)
Destructive war (Belshazzar) [2.16]
Johann Adolf HASSE (1699 - 1783)
Ah che dissi! (Didone abbandonata) [1.26]
Se resto sul lido (Didone abbandonata) [5.35]
Odi cola la frigia tromba? (Didone abbandonata) [0.26]
A trionfar mi chiama (Didone abbandonata) [6.36]
John Christopher SMITH (1712
Say, lovely Dream! (The Fairies) [5.42]
Thomas ARNE (1710 - 1778)
Vengeance, O come inspire me! (Alfred) [6.52]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714
Orchester-sinfonie in D major [10.18]
Christoph Willibald, Ritter von GLUCK
(1714 - 1787)
Ah! non turbi il mio riposo (Telemaco) [3.40]
The Dance of the Blessed Spirits (Orfeo ed Euridice)
Che puro ciel! (Orfeo ed Euridice) [5.50]
Ahime! Dove trascorsi? (Orfeo ed Euridice) [1.14]
Che faro senza Euridice? (Orfeo ed Euridice) [3.48]
Gaetano GUADAGNI (1728 - 1792)
Pensea a serbarmi, o cara [3.58]
Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor)
rec. St Silas the Martyr, London, 10-12 August 2011
HYPERION CDA67924 [78.03]
The majority of the castrati with whom Handel worked were well
known stars. Gaetano Guadagni (1728 - 1792) was different; he
arrived in London in 1748 with a comic-opera troupe which went
bankrupt. He was introduced to Charles Burney who in turn introduced
him to Handel. Handel wrote a number of roles for Guadagni and
adapted others for his use. At this stage of his career, Handel
was used to training his own singers and he seems to have done
the same; Guadagni worked for longer with Handel than any other
Guadagni was well read and had a fine library of theoretical
treatises. He had a small voice which responded to the changes
in style which were happening. Refinement and taste were replacing
virtuoso bravura performance. So Guadagni had the right sort
of voice, but was also an opportunist. This led, ultimately,
to his journey from Handel to Gluck’s Orfeo.
Counter-tenor, Iestyn Davies, and Arcangelo directed by Jonathan
Cohen, here explore the music from roles written for Guadagni.
The first half of the disc is devoted to his seven years in
Britain, with arias by Handel, Hasse, John Christopher Smith
O Lord, whose mercies numberless from Saul showcases
Guadagni’s skill at legato singing, here beautifully realised
by Davies. He sings the second verse with a lovely sense of
line and imaginatively ornament. Yet, can I hear that dulcet
lay from The Choice of Hercules is similarly focused
and Davies produces some alluringly sweet tone. The raptur’d
soul from Theodora and Destructive war from
Belshazzar pushed Guadagni closer to its limits, though
Davies demonstrates that they lie easily within his. Destructive
war with its trumpets and drums is very martial, and Davies
produces some fine bravura singing.
In 1753 the Dauphine Maria Josepha invited him to take part
in performances of Hasse’s Didone abbandonata in
Versailles. Guadagni’s performances attracted great approbation
and he returned to Paris the following year to sing in the Concert
Guadagni was admired in both arias and recitative and Davies
includes both the accompagnato Ah che dissi which precedes
the aria Se resto sui lido, and the recitative Odi
cola la frigia tromba preceding the aria A trionfar mi
chiama. Hasse’s opera was premiered in Versailles
in 1750, Hasse being invited because Dauphine Maria Josepha
was originally from Saxony where Hasse was based at the Saxon
In style, Hasse’s music approaches the galant style.
Se resto sul lido is fascinating; Hasse alternates faster
running passages, neatly sung by Davies, with slower reflective
phrases to reflect Aenee’s confusion, between leaving
and staying. In A trionfar mi chiama we have martial
horns and a very toe-tapping tune.
After his Handelian roles, Guadagni continued to work with other
British composers. Say, Lovely Dream comes from John
Christopher Smith’s The Fairies performed in 1755.
Smith was Handel’s last secretary, but also had his own
career as a composer. The Fairies was based on Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a nicely lyrical,
sub-Handelian piece. But the performance had an important place
in Guadagni’s career as it led to his meeting with Garrick
and, according to Charles Burney, to acting lessons with the
great actor. However it happened, Guadagni developed into a
highly admired operatic actor.
Vengeance, O come inspire me from Arne’s Alfred
is rather better known than the Smith. It has a highly arresting
opening and a rather catchy tune.
Before the group of Gluck arias, the ensemble play an instrumental
interlude perhaps reflecting the fact that, as a result of his
move to Lisbon being stopped by the 1755 earthquake, Guadagni
took time off to reflect and restructure his technique and career.
Performing a variety of roles on the continent, from the traditional
to the avant-garde, Guadagni was talent-spotted and invited
to join the team being built in Vienna around Gluck and Calzabigi.
The first role that Gluck wrote for Guadagni was Orfeo. It was
tailored to his voice, the lyrical simplicity, the intimate
refinement. In Calzabigi’s view, in any other hands the
role would have been disaster. Davies sings the items from Orfeo
ed Euridice, with beautifully moulded phrases and sweet
tone. There is a hint that perhaps the lower end of the range
does not entirely sit comfortably, but it is a relatively small
point in the context of such fine performances.
After Orfeo ed Euridice Guadagni sang in one more Gluck
opera, Telemaco, this time not quite as much a reform
opera as Orfeo but still very striking. Something went
wrong and Guadagni never sang for Gluck again. What he did do,
though, was to consolidate his association with the role of
Orfeo, continuing to sing Gluck’s setting as well as those
of other composers. He composed replacement arias for Gluck’s
opera and also a replacement aria for a performance of Ezio
(in a setting by Guglielmi or Bertoni). This latter aria is
the last item on the disc, Guadagni writing for himself to sing.
The aria is rather more ornamented than Gluck’s writing
for Guadagni, but without ever being virtuosic.
Davies’ performances here are spot-on, poised and beautifully
modulated with a fine sense of line. He is well supported by
Arcangelo under Cohen, who give a nicely dramatic performance
of C.P.E. Bach’s symphony. When you read descriptions
of some castrato voices, the choice of a counter-tenor to sing
castrato roles seems a bit limited, but here Davies seems to
match very well what we know of Guadagni’s voice and technique.
This is a finely performed recital, but what puts it in the
remarkable category is the fascinating and illuminating programme.
Here is a disc which sheds light on a remarkable performer,
someone associated with an iconic role.