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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Enemies in Love: Arias for countertenor and mezzo-soprano
Natalia Kawałek (mezzo-soprano)
Jakub Józef Orliński (countertenor)
Il Giardino d'Amore/Stefan Plewniak
rec. 2016, Corpus Christi Basilica, Kraków, Poland
Full sung texts with translations in English.
ËVOE RECORDS 005 [56:29]

For some reason this Handel album, Enemies in Love, passed me by when it was released earlier this year on Ëvoe Records. Now, I’m delighted to have the opportunity of reviewing this outstanding collection of Handel opera arias and duets. Made up of twelve works in total there are four mezzo-soprano arias sung by Natalia Kawałek, four countertenor arias sung by Jakub Józef Orliński and four duets.

With the “theme of love, jealousy, war, intrigue and religious conflict”, this is a fascinating Handel collection outstandingly sung and although there are several brisker works it’s the slow, more emotional works that have the greater appeal. Polish mezzo-soprano Natalia Kawałek excels in her solo arias, displaying a strong fluid voice and a special talent for vocal expression. Blessed with a robust high register, in Armida’s arioso ‘Furie terribili’ from Rinaldo she exhibits her strong talent for drama. Worthy of special note is Kawałek’s impressive command of attractive coloratura, particularly notable in her aria ‘Volate Amori’ from Ariodante. Also in marvellous voice is Polish-born countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, with his noticeably clear diction; he demonstrates an impressive slide to his glorious highest notes in the hero’s aria ‘A dispetto d'un volto ingrate’ from Tamerlano. Determined and durable, in Arcase’s aria ‘Furibondo spira il vento’ from Partenope the countertenor convincingly displays his ability for holding notes. From Rodelinda Orliński is similarly memorable in Bertarido’s aria ‘Dove sei,amato bene?’ a beautiful rendition, producing a glorious melancholy. Also from Rodelinda the duet ‘Io t'abbraccio’ between Rodelinda and Bertarido is a highlight, with Kawałek and Orliński impressively communicating the emotional pain of parting. I love the way the partnership combines together both beautifully and intimately in the duet of Romilda and Arsamene ‘Troppo oltraggi la mia fede’ from Serse. Another highpoint is the final track, Arcane and Clizia’s duet ‘Addio, mio caro bene’ from Teseo. Here the lovely interchange and blending of voices between Kawałek and Orliński is rendered with astonishing assurance, producing genuinely tender passion and the results are remarkable. Directing from the violin Stefan Plewniak, adopts generally brisk tempi – often a touch hectic for period instrument ensemble Il Giardino d'Amore who play effectively, displaying real commitment, although at times I wanted a little more composure and style. Of note too is the extended harpsichord part in the aria ‘Vo far guerra’ from Rinaldo enthusiastically played with reserves of vitality by Ewa Mrowca.

Recorded at Corpus Christi Basilica, Kraków the sound is clear and bright without being too thin, although the oboes feel recessed compared to the dominant strings. Additional orchestral colour would have added to the enjoyment of the performance. This is a most successfully produced release with an interesting and helpful essay by Karolina Kolinek-Siechowicz. Most importantly full sung texts with translations in English are provided in the booklet. However, it’s disappointing that the translations are not placed alongside the Italian texts and they are not numbered either.

One of the finest albums I know of Handel operatic duets is performed by Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce Di Donato; this splendidly performed release ‘Enemies in Love’ on Ëvoe Records is in the same league.

Michael Cookson

1. A dispetto d'un volto ingrate - Tamerlano [5:07]
2. Amor e qual vento - Orlando [4:39]
3. Troppo oltraggi la mia fede, duetto - Serse[2:32]
4. Furibondo spira il vento - Partenope [4:12]
5. Stille amare recitativo - Tolomeo [6:32]
6. Volate Amori - Ariodante [3:36]
7. Io t'abbraccio, duetto - Rodelinda [6:30]
8. Furie terribili, arioso - Rinaldo [1:47]
9. Fermati! duetto - Rinaldo [1:58]
10. Dove sei,amato bene? - Rodelinda [5:05]
11. Vo far guerra - Rinaldo [10:43]
12. Addio! mio caro bene, duetto - Teseo [3:29]


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