George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), one of the preeminent Baroque composers, was born in Germany, educated in Italy, and spent most of his career in England, making him one of the first genuinely cosmopolitan composers noted, for the elegance, sophistication, and tunefulness of his music. He established his reputation in London as a composer of Italian opera, but after public taste shifted in the 1730s, he turned to English oratorios, the most famous of which is Messiah. Other popular works include Water Music, Royal Fireworks Music, the operas Giulio Cesare and Serse, and the oratorios Israel in Egypt and Judas Maccabeus.
Skin-tight rubber and lacrosse sticks bring contemporary chic to this timeless fantasy of warriors and witches in Robert Carsen's fun-filled transformation of Handel's first London triumph. Conducting from the keyboard just as Handel himself did, Ottavio Dantone leads a youthful cast of today's luminaries in the dramatic art of Baroque opera, the 'affecting' Sonia Prina, the 'unadorned intensity' of Anett Fritsch and 'fire-breathing flair' (The Observer) of Brenda Rae.
In the autumn of last year Fabio Bonizzoni and La Risonanza embarked on a journey taking a fresh look – musicologically as well as musically – at the chamber cantatas to Italian texts and with instrumental accompaniment composed by Georg Frideric Handel during his stay in Italy. Where the first release on Glossa focused on works associated with Cardinal Pamphili in Rome, this new recording contains pieces – including the dramatic cantata Armida abbandonata and Handel’s ‘own’ Hunt Cantata – originating in the establishment of the Marquis Ruspoli and written for sopranos such asMargherita Durastante and Vittoria Tarquini.
Thanks to his omnivorous curiosity, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt has revived an authentic masterpiece. Several opera composers–Lully, Handel, and Gluck–had already availed themselves of the amorous and stormy adventures of the knight Rinaldo and the enchantress Armida, drawn from Tasso's Jerusalem Liberated. Composed in 1784, Haydn's Armida was his the final opera he wrote for his patron Prince Esterházy, but it was also the composer's debut opera seria. Even so–and just like Mozart–Haydn knew how to free himself from the rigid and monotonous alternation of aria and recitative that customarily governed this genre. Thus the final act, which unfolds in an enchanted forest, offers us a half-hour of nearly uninterrupted music, even prefiguring the romantic shape of things to come in the 19th century. This recording was made from a concert performance in June 2000 in Vienna's sumptuous Musikverein under the blazing baton of Harnoncourt. The cast is impeccable–including Christoph Prégardien and Patricia Petibon and dominated by the stunning Cecilia Bartoli, who can swerve within a few bars from boiling anger to the most overwhelming amorous pleading.(Franck Erikson)
The real prize in this jam packed nine-CD set is of course the incandescent recording of Giulio Cesare with some of the most phenomenal singing on record by Larmore, Schlick, and Fink. When this came out it created quite a stir, given it is about as complete as it ever has been, and filled with Jacob’s searching and trend-setting conducting. While it won’t displace favorites of yesteryear, those recordings are of a different era and style altogether, and here the opera comes together in a manner fully redolent of what Handel must have envisioned.
Rinaldo (HWV 7) is an opera by George Frideric Handel, composed in 1711, and was the first Italian language opera written specifically for the London stage. The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill, and the work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket on 24 February 1711. The story of love, war and redemption, set at the time of the First Crusade, is loosely based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata ("Jerusalem Delivered"), and its staging involved many original and vivid effects. It was a great success with the public, despite negative reactions from literary critics hostile to the contemporary trend towards Italian entertainment in English theatres.
Equally known for his live performances and musicological work in establishing new performing practices for early opera, Alan Curtis enjoyed a fruitful career. A scholar, as well as a conductor and harpsichordist, Curtis edited several important works with an appreciation for authenticity, effective performance, and – in the case of opera – stage-worthiness. Several of his best recordings were issued in the 1990s and in the new millennium. Curtis studied first at Michigan State University and attained his bachelor's degree there in 1955.