Giulio Cesare proved by far the most popular of Handel’s operas, both originally and in modern revivals. Its straightforward plot and all-star original cast drew from Handel exceptional depth and subtlety in musical characterisation and lavish orchestral colours; Cleopatra’s seductive stage orchestra – harp, theorbo and viola da gamba with muted accompaniment from the pit – is unique. René Jacobs set the standard in 1991 (on Harmonia Mundi). By comparison, this is milder, more pensive. Bowman is superbly flexible – he seems to become ever more fluent over the years – yet less powerful and imperious than Jennifer Larmore, the earlier . Visse is thrillingly vicious as Tolomeo, the murderer and rapist, while the widowed Cornelia (Laurens) retains an expressive passion despite the weight of tragedy overwhelming her. Dawson, a provocative Cleopatra, isn’t always given her head: her final aria, da tempeste, is restrained by Malgoire’s sober tempo. The recording balance veils some artful orchestral detail. But the quasi-stage acoustic and sense of space add dramatic realism to the recitative, which has been judiciously cut to allow the inclusion of all the arias within the three discs. This is a worthy addition to several versions already available on disc – though a dozen or more Handel operas still await their first recordings.(George Pratt)
"Serse is a light and elegant comedy. It opens with the most famous of all Handel's arias, the notorious “Ombre mai fu“ (or Largo), quite a different piece when heard in context. Its mock solemnity sets the tone for what follows. The opera moves swiftly and charmingly, the recitatives often interspersed with brief ariosos rather than full-fledged arias. Outstanding in the cast is Hendricks, her voice flexible and distinctive, clearer and purer than it would become (after the tone began to unknit). She sings with great charm. Watkinson is a fluent Serse but doesn't leave a lasting impression. Oddly enough, I enjoyed Esswood's work more. He was the first of our modern countertenors, and, more than his successors, he seemed to value traditional methods, striving for full-bodied tone enriched by enough vibrato to keep the pitch up and the line spinning. Also praiseworthy is Ulrik Cold, an agile bass."- Fanfare
André Campra's "Tancrède" is something of a "missing link", connecting the 17th century stage works of Jean-Baptiste Lully and his frustrated rival Marc-Antoine Charpentier with the late baroque works of Jean-Philippe Rameau. "Tancrède" was given its premiere in 1702 and was repeated again and again on the Paris stage. Even in the 1760's, when Rameau's "Les Boréades" had to be abandoned because of the death of the composer, it was Campra's "Tancrède" that the directors of the Paris Opéra chose to put back on stage because of its popularity.