Following the triumphant success of Rinaldo, Handel’s third London opera, Teseo (1713), was intended to make the still unusual genre of opera more attractive to the English public. That in fact Handel was able to latch on to the success of Rinaldo was due, likewise, to the many stage effects and a richness of musical ideas. At the same time Teseo is in many respects an exception, since the Italian libretto of Nicola Haym is based on a French model, and therefore retains the structure of five acts which was usual in France. And Handel proved that apparently he too had grappled with the Franch opera tradition. As an exception, one finds forms here which do not fit into the standard patterns of secco recitative and da capo aria. Only for the role of Medea did Handel compose several accompagnato recitatives and arias, which, though on the surface they follow the da capo form, as in the example of “Morirò, ma vendicata” from act 5, with its abrupt changes from dark plaintive tones and wild outbreaks of anger in the A section, depart markedly from the rules of aria composition at that time. Many duets, as well as a chorus point musically to the French tradition.
Franco Battiato is one of the most successful singers in Italy. He began his career as a "light" singer, recording a few singles. In 1971 he started his particular journey through experimental music, recording his proggiest issues: "Fetus", "Pollution", "Sulle corde di Aries". Some very atmospheric parts and some very melodic songs make these records worthwhile, along with musical references to the arabic culture and italian folk that will surface from time to time in all of his following output. His next records are gradually more and more experimental, exploring minimalism and culminating with "L' Egitto prime delle Sabbie", with two long pieces based on hardly one note and its harmonics.
Naples in 1750 was one of the ten biggest cities in the world, and it spawned two of the biggest musical stars of the era: the castrati Farinelli and the much lesser known Caffarelli, whose real name was Gaetano Majorano. This release consists of arias written for Caffarelli, and you might treasure it for the flamboyant, high-volume singing of countertenor Franco Fagioli, who arguably comes as close as any of his contemporaries to conveying what the high-powered sound of the castrati was like (in the understandable absence of the genuine article). Or, you might be grateful to hear the music associated with Caffarelli, who in his own time had a reputation for being troublesome and has generally ignored by the historical opera revival movement. The composers represented on the program are not household names; the best-known of them was German Johann Adolph Hasse, and some, such as Gennaro Manna and Domenico Sarro, are all but unknown. The bright, blooming orchestral work of Il pomo d'oro under conductor Riccardo Minasi is unfailingly exciting. Beyond all this, however, is the presentation of the whole package.
Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli has emerged as one of the rising figures in that hot field, seemingly with the Italian opera of the first half of the 18th century as a specialty. As such, he might be particularly well represented by this collection of arias by Nicola Porpora, whose activities cut across a cross section of important activities in the century's second quarter. He was the teacher of both Haydn and Farinelli. He snagged many of Pietro Metastasio's high-tragedy opera seria libretti for himself and set them with suitably florid music, but he also had a considerable for sheer melody that's on display in this well-chosen program. Fagioli is not an exceptionally powerful countertenor, but he's capable of sheer smoothness of line that's appropriate to Porpora, who was called the greatest teacher of singers among composers, and the greatest composer among teachers of singing. He gets excellent support from the sparse but extremely sensitive Academia Montis Regalis under Alessandro de Marchi, and he makes a strong entry in the continuing case that Porpora ought to be ranked among the operatic greats. A countertenor release that can be recommended for pure melodic beauty.(James Manheim)