Partenope is mature Handel, and belongs in the top flight of his stage works. A comedy from 1730, which was first rejected as too frivolous by the Royal Academy of Music in London, the text had been set 20 years earlier by Caldara for an opera that had been a major influence on the young Handel. The tone is light and the action - all disguises and cross-dressing, with everyone ending up with the right partner - is swift moving; there are relatively few extended arias but a number of ensembles, as well as the obligatory sinfonia and march for the battle scene at the beginning of the second act. This performance under Christian Curnyn hits the right spot from the very start. There are no outstanding performances, but a whole collection of first-rate ones - Rosemary Joshua in the title role of the queen with so many admirers, Hilary Summers as the princess Rosmira, Kurt Streit as Emilio, the one prince who doesn't get the girl. (Andrew Clements)
With over 30 of Handel’s operas awaiting a first CD recording, it seems indecent luxury to find two splendid new recordings of Ottone, a work in the vanguard of the German Handel opera revival in the 1920s, but long since relegated to obscurity. Both benefit immensely by being based on stage performances, Nicholas McGegan’s from the Göttingen Handel Festival, of which he is artistic director, Robert King’s from a production that successfully toured the UK and Japan. Broadly speaking, McGegan’s reading is distinguished by a compelling sense of drama and a wonderful feeling for Handelian style, sometimes at the expense of tonal beauty; King’s is smoother, occasionally letting the dramatic impetus flag, but offering playing of consistent strength and fine shading. McGegan, however, fields the marginally more convincing team of singers, led by Drew Minter, whose pure bright tone, breathtaking coloratura and ardent delivery give pleasure at every hearing; Bowman, for King, sings with sensitivity but his mannered tone and technical limitations are serious drawbacks. Conversely, Dominique Visse, for King, with his inimitable reedy timbre and impeccable musicianship, is matchless as Ottone’s rival in kingship, Adelberto, fine as Ralf Popken is for McGegan. Of the female roles, Claron McFadden produces a stream of radiant tone as Teofane; but so does Lisa Saffer, who, in addition, offers a wider range of colour. Both sets are recommendable, but Minter’s charismatic performance, Saffer’s deeper perceptions and the inclusion of arias Handel wrote for later revivals tip the balance in favour of McGegan. Whatever your choice, it’s an opera not to be missed. (Antony Bye)
Rewritten with enhanced regal bravado for the coronation of George II, Handel's 1727 opera of Richard the Lionheart is a rarely heard but rewarding enterprise. Goodwin conducts a fervent Basel Chamber Orchestra in this new scholarly version, fully exploiting the dramatic twists of the King's quest to reclaim his abducted fiancée, Constanza. Amid much nice character-building from the decent cast, Nuria Rial enjoys Constanza's luxuriant lines, while Lawrence Zazzo revels as the Lionheart. Riccardo's Act III revenge aria is truly ominous, furiously driven by Goodwin and some innovative brass writing. (The Times)
"Rescue operas are not what one is used to associating with Handel, yet that, in a sense, is what this is. Costanza, a princess of Navarre, has been shipwrecked on Cyprus, where she now awaits the arrival of her betrothed, Richard the Lionheart (yes, the same). The island's tyrannical ruler, Isacio, fancies her for himself, however, and spends the entire opera trying to prevent the intended union from going ahead, first by sending Riccardo his daughter Pulcheria instead, and, when that has failed thanks to Pulcheria's brave entreaties, by imprisoning Costanza and declaring war. Only with his final defeat by Riccardo's army, aided by Pulcheria's own fiancé Oronte, do things finally turn out happily.
Alan Curtis, lauded by Opera as one of our finest conductors of Baroque opera, illumines Handel s masterpiece, Alcina, by casting, as heroine, the brilliant Joyce DiDonato. Since Alcina is historically dared by virtuosic sopranos like Sutherland and Battle, this innovative recording with a mezzo is a must-have not just for Alcina freaks but all who adore sensational vocalism. As Handel did in his time, Curtis arrays our era s finest Baroque singers such as Maite Beaumont and Karina Gauvin in supporting roles around his star. With this electrifying Alcina, first ever studio recording of the rarely heard Ezio and Rolando Villazón s new album, Handel Year 2009 is being exceptionally well feted by Deutsche Grammophon.
Georg Friedrich Händel: "Concertos for the Harpsichord" (Vol. 1) All of them are known, Georg Friedrich Händel’s "Orgelkonzerte”. Unknown by the most is, that beside his "Orgelkonzerte” he also composed pieces for cembalo only. The vianese cembalo player Wolfgang Glüxam and the ensemble "Gradus ad Parnassum Wien” under Hiro Kurosaki perform these cembalo concerts for the first time. In addition this CD also contains two popular works from Händel.
Lord Kinnoul said after hearing one of Händel’s: "Mister Händel, I would have been sad if I would have entertained the crowd, I wanted to improve you”.
Alan Curtis has done more than most to prove that many of Handel's 42 operas are first-rate music dramas – his Admeto, from 1979 (see page 465), was one of the first complete recordings of a Handel opera to feature period instruments and all voices at correct pitch without transpositions – but it is surprising to note that this is his first recording of an undisputed popular masterpiece. Rodelinda, first performed in February 1725, is a stunning work dominated by a title-heroine who remains devoted to her supposedly dead husband Bertarido and scorns the advances of his usurper Grimoaldo. The potency of Handel's score was enhanced by the complexity of the villain, whose lust-driven cruelty gradually crumbles into a desire to abdicate in order to find spiritual peace. The scene in which the penitent tyrant's life is saved from assassination by the fugitive Bertarido is among Handel's greatest dramatic moments. (Gramophone Classical Music Guide)
One of Handel’s rarer operas, Arminio, set at the time of the Roman Empire, was first performed in 1737. “On the evidence of this very fine recording,” said Gramophone when this performance first appeared, “it can stand among the best of the Handel operas, full of beautiful and imaginative things.” Conducting a cast led by the virtuosic Vivica Genaux in the title role – composed for the castrato Domenico Annibali – is the renowned Handel specialist Alan Curtis.
“[These suites] have rarely been recorded or promoted by harpsichordists during the most recent revival of interest in ‘early music.’” I realize that Richard Egarr is entitled to his own opinions—his liner notes on an earlier release, for example, likened the humor in Purcell’s harpsichord music to that of the wonderful old 1950s BBC comedy The Goon Show —but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Christopher Brodersen pointed out in a 2011 review of these works featuring Laurence Cummings ( Fanfare 34:5) that ArkivMusic listed nine complete sets played on the harpsichord, with several others on the piano. I find some of the suites have considerably more recordings than that, in 2014: 26 for the Suite in A Major, 28 for the Suite in D Minor, 25 for the Suite in E Minor, 47 for the Suite in E Major. If such numbers reflect rare recordings, I have to wonder what Egarr would consider a moderate number, let alone a frequent one.