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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
The Handel Album
Ensemble Artaserse/Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor & direction)
rec. 2017, Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris
Sung texts and English translations provided
ERATO 9029577445 [71.58]

This new Erato album from countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is devoted to Handel arias from ten operas of the thirty-five that he produced for the London stage. In a move away from the more familiar operas namely Giulio Cesare, Ariodante and Alcina prominence in the programme is given to his lesser known operas such as Amadigi di Gaula, Riccardo primo and Flavio. Many of these operas were written for the famous castrato Francesco Bernardi known as Senesino, the creator of many leading Handel roles, also castrati Domenico Annibali and Nicolo Grimaldi (Nicolini) et al.

Jaroussky has gained an outstanding reputation for singing the major Handel roles including Sesto in Giulio Cesare, Ruggiero in Alcina and Didymus in Theodora however in 2015 at Berlin when I attended a Jaroussky concert he showed his versatility by singing a new work Sonnets de Louise Labé composed for him by Marc-Andre Dalbavie. For those wanting to see Jaroussky performing Handel I can highly recommend him in the role of Ruggiero in Katie Mitchell’s 2015 staging of Alcina from Grand Théâtre de Provence on Erato Blu-ray/DVD.

In the booklet notes to this Handel album Jaroussky explains how it is common for performers especially in early music to sing arias intended for other voice types such as castrato repertoire. This practice continues on this album with a number of the arias having been transcribed for his countertenor range.

My highlights are four arias all castrato roles. From Imeneo Jaroussky is in sensitive and reflective voice in the act one aria Se potessero i sospir’ miei with Tirinto realising he cannot control the sea and pining for his captured fiancé Rosmene to return. From the opera Riccardo primo, in the act one aria Agitato da fiere tempeste, the king delights at steering a course through a storm at sea with the help of a guiding star. Jaroussky is in his element with the quicksilver coloratura demands of this Senesino role. Jaroussky in the role of the title-hero with the aria Ombra cara from act two of Radamisto, originally sung by Senesino in a revised version, convincingly grieves for his wife and swears revenge. From Flavio with another Senesino role, in Guido’s act one aria Bel content, Jaroussky demonstrates his convincing expression of happiness and his love for Emilia.

Throughout Jaroussky’s performance is entirely engaging, singing with an impressive range of emotion. Conspicuous is the countertenor’s fluid tone, smooth and unforced, and his profound feeling for the text is often affecting. Occasionally at the start of an aria Jaroussky’s tuning can sound slightly unsteady but he soon adjusts. As well as singing Jaroussky also directs Ensemble Artaserse the period instrument group he founded in 2002 which is twenty strong here. Playing with style and precision with considerable expression Ensemble Artaserse excels in music from a composer it knows so well.

Recorded in Paris at Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban no problem whatsoever with the sound quality which is vividly clear and most satisfyingly balanced. The booklet is rather lavish containing sung texts with English translations, a note from Jaroussky and a helpful essay titled Handel: Operatic Arias written by David Vickers.

Jaroussky is in his element bringing the music to life with engagement and considerable aplomb.

Michael Cookson

Imeneo HWV 41 (1740)
Libretto after Silvio Stampiglia
Act 1, Scene 1,
1. Se potessero i sospir’ miei -Tirinto [6.45]
Riccardo primo HWV 23 (1727)
Libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli, after Francesco
Act 1, Scene 6,
2. Agitato da fiere tempeste - Riccardo [4.19]
Siroe HWV 24, (1728)
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, adapted by Nicola Haym
Act 3, Scene 7
3. Son stanco, ingiusti Numi... – Siroe [1.17]
4. Deggio morire, o stelle - Siroe [6.24]
Serse HWV 40 (1738)
Libretto after Silvio Stampiglia
Act 2, Scene 9
5. Sì, la voglio – Arsamene [2.53]
Radamisto HWV 12a (1720)
Libretto by Nicola Haym
Act 2, Scene 2
6. Ombra cara - Radamisto [8.13]
Act 3, Scene 5
7. Vieni, d’empietà mostro crudele!... – Radamisto [1.01]
8. Vile! Se mi dai vita - Radamisto [3.37]
Act 3, Scene 7
9. Qual nave smarrita - Radamisto [6.09]
Flavio HWV 16 (1723)
Libretto by Nicola Haym, after Matteo Noris: Flavio Cuniberto
Act 2, Scene 6
10. Privarmi ancora... – Guido [0.24]
11. Rompo i lacci – Guido [5.18]
Amadigi di Gaula HWV 11 (1715)
Libretto unknown possibly Nicola Haym,
after Antoine Houdar de la Motte: Amadis de Grèce
Act 2, Scene 1
12. Sussurrate, onde vezzose - Amadigi [3.50]
Tolomeo HWV 25 (1728)
Libretto by Nicola Haym, after Carlo Sigismondo Capece
Act 3, Scene 6
13. Che più si tarda omai... - Tolomeo [2.13]
14. Stille amare - Tolomeo [4.21]
Giustino HWV 37 (1737)
Libretto by Niccolò Berengani and Pietro Pariati
Act 1, Scene 5
15. Chi mi chiama alla gloria?... – Giustino [1.06]
16. Se parla al mio cor – Giustino [4.44]
Ezio HWV 29, 1732
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio
Act 1, Scene 2
17. Pensa a serbarmi, oh cara – Ezio [3.39]
Flavio HWV 16 (1723)
Libretto by Nicola Haym, after Matteo Noris: Flavio Cuniberto
Act 1, Scene 4
18. Son pur felice al fine... – Guido [0.28]
19. Bel contento – Guido [5.12]



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