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Handel: Admeto, Arminio, Deidamia, Radamisto, Rodrigo, Fernando / Alan Curtis, Furio Zanasi, Et Al

Release Date: 04/21/2009 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 95862   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Ulrik ColdRené JacobsRachel YakarVivica Genaux,   ... 
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Number of Discs: 15 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


A warm welcome back for this 1977 recording of Handel’s most successful opera, which ran, in 1727, for an unprecedented 19 performances. Curtis and his team were visionary 20 years ago. Recitative is lively, declaimed rather than fully sung; vocal decorations sound spontaneous, period instruments are played with zest and polish – barely a sour note from the handful of strings; colours include a trio of oboes and bassoon and, accompanying Bowman in fine voice, a pair of horns for what Dr Burney described as ‘one of the best and most agreeable hunting songs that was ever composed’. Jacobs reflects the volatile title role, impassioned in his death-bed scene which opens the opera, virtuosic elsewhere, though his
Read more affected swoops become rather predictably mannered. Yakar and Gomez sing Alceste and Antigone, roles which Handel wrote for Faustina and Cuzzoni, whose jealous rivalry led them, on stage, to ‘call Bitch and Whore’ and ‘pull each other’s coiffs’! Here, Faustina could not more beautifully have ‘sung adagios with great passion and expression’ than Yakar, while Gomez surely matches Cuzzoni’s ability to ‘conceal every appearance of difficulty’ – contemporary descriptions of their outstanding powers. You may want to tweak tone controls to moderate the bright, remastered sound.

-- George Pratt BBC Music Magazine [reviewing Virgin 61369]


Arminio was first performed in London in January 1737 when Handel’s rivalry with the competing ‘Opera of the Nobility’ was at its height. Three months later, exhausted, the composer suffered a breakdown in health and later left for Aachen in search of a cure. Further operas followed after his return to London but the great triumphs of earlier seasons were not to be repeated. The text of Arminio, by one of Handel’s favourite librettists, Antonio Salvi, is rather a good one; and its strong dramatic sense and above-average literary merit is matched, as usual, by some fine musical characterisation. The story concerns the German leader Hermann (Arminius) whose fight for freedom against Roman occupiers, early in the first century AD is ultimately successful. Alan Curtis and his mainly Italian ensemble Il Complesso Barocco have already provided us with the only recorded versions of Handel’s Admeto and Rodrigo. This new venture is comparably stylish, briskly moving and mainly well sung. The prevailing seriousness of the piece is established at once by its overture and by the duet of Arminius and his wife Tusnelda. But there is plenty of expressive variety and a wealth of fine arias – ‘Quella fiamma’ (Act II), with its brilliant oboe obbligato, is among the most arresting of them – the changing colours of whose music is a constant delight. Curtis directs all with rhythmic vitality.

-- Nicholas Anderson, BBC Music Magazine [reviewing Virgin 45461]


Dominique Labelle almost walks away with the show as Nerea. Her saucy phrasing and juicy, distinctive timbre make you sit up and listen carefully whenever she opens her mouth... But it is Alan Curtis' conducting of Il Complesso Barocco that makes this recording work as well as it does. It is remarkable for its conciseness and for its intelligent use of dynamics (which emphasize drama when there is little in evidence), with recitatives done at a natural, conversational speed, slowing down when necessary and always with heed to what's being said. The singers embellish their vocal lines, but not always sensibly or appealingly. The small orchestra--16 strings (including continuo) and pretty sparsely used trumpets, bassoon, oboes, horns, and timpani--play beautifully, with sharp, decisive attacks and spotless ensemble. The recording is equally good. And so, if this work interests you, this recording is heads above the older Troy/Albany version (with the exception noted above) and is recommended.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing Virgin 45669]


Joyce Di Donato and Maite Beaumont are outstanding as the devoted couple tormented by Tiridate’s abuse of power. Their flexible and agile voices are ideally displayed in the opening scenes of Act 2 – Beaumont’s sublime ‘Quando mai’ followed by Di Donato’s powerful ‘Ombra cara’. Patrizia Ciofi is suited to the moods of the Tiridate’s long-suffering wife. Dominique Labelle is the most rounded and ideally equipped Handel soprano in the cast: the music effortlessly trips off her tongue in ‘Mirerò quel vago volto’... Alan Curtis directs with superb pace and judgement. He is a successful advocate for Handel’s first version of Radamisto, although in Act 3 he uses two pieces from the second version for dramatic reasons. I wonder how Polissena’s original climactic aria ‘Sposo ingrato’ might sound instead of the exclamatory ‘Barbiro, partirò’, but I cannot fault Curtis’s decision to opt for the more dynamic later aria. Il Complesso Barocco play neatly and sympathetically support the singers. The orchestra avoids forcing rhetorical effects too much but I wish it had mined the textural richness in Handel’s score a little deeper. However, this enjoyable performance lacks nothing essential in theatrical impact and musical drive.

-- David Vickers, Gramophone [12/2005, reviewing Virgin 45673]


Until recently, so much of this first opera that Handel wrote for Italy was lost that it was unviable to stage it. The rediscovery of the missing material, a triumph of scholarly detective work, reveals the confident high spirits which characterise so much of Handel’s music during his Italian visit. It lacks the instrumental colours of his more lavish London productions, with many arias supported by continuo alone. All are here, complete (even six which Handel himself discarded), but many are brief and, under Curtis’s lively direction, the dramatic tension builds up splendidly. He has also shortened the recitative, reflecting Handel’s own tendency later, in England, when writing for a non-Italian speaking audience. After a fleeting moment of uncertainty in the Overture, the orchestral playing is superb throughout. Both Banditelli (Rodrigo) and Calvi (Fernando) are well-characterised in their trouser roles, an apt touch of darkness in the voice reflecting Handel’s original castrati. Piau is appealing as Rodrigo’s forgiving wife in some of the most memorable arias – her first with delicate flutes, in Act II, confusing the ear with ambiguous up-beat rhythms. Fedi, as Rinaldo’s rejected mistress, is uncomfortably hard-edged when passions are roused. Outstanding is Müller, duetting alluringly with bassoon, strutting arrogantly in a victory celebration.

-- George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine [reviewing Virgin 545897]


Fernando is the abandoned first draft of Handel’s opera Sosarme (performed at the King’s Theatre in February 1732)... Curtis’s pacing and shaping of Handel’s music is consistently subtle, astutely rhetorical and firmly connected to the libretto text. Although it might be possible to explore firmer muscularity and create a more vivid sense of surprise in the quicker music, there is something to be said for Curtis’s shrewd reservation of such effects for when it is truly vital for the drama. For instance, Marianna Pizzolato’s powerful arias “Vado al campo” and “Cuor di madre e cuor di moglie” are potently delivered moments of severe agitated passion that are all the more effective for the sweeter elegance that pervades much of this lovely score. The sublime duet “Per le porte” is sung with poetic intimacy by Lawrence Zazzo and Veronica Cangemi. Zazzo sings his elegantly heroic aria “Alle sfere della gloria” with supple clarity. Max Emanuel Cencic is impressive as the reticent Sancio, unwilling to be used as a pawn in his ruthless grandfather Altomaro’s Machiavellian plans to tear the royal family apart. Antonio Abete gives an ideal account of the villain’s arias... Fernando is one of Curtis’s most consistent and pleasing Handel opera recordings.

-- David Vickers, GRAMOPHONE [reviewing Virgin 65483]

***Librettos are included in the form of a CD-ROM; this set does not include printed librettos.***
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Works on This Recording

Admeto, Rè di Tessaglia, HWV 22 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (Bass), René Jacobs (Countertenor), Rachel Yakar (Soprano)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1727; London, England 
Date of Recording: 1978 
Language: Italian 
Arminio, HWV 36 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Vivica Genaux (Mezzo Soprano), Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Geraldine McGreevy (Soprano)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1737; London, England 
Date of Recording: 07/2000 
Venue:  Rozzi Theater, Siena, Italy 
Length: 146 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Deidamia, HWV 42 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Simone Kermes (Soprano), Anna Maria Panzarella (Soprano)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 
Language: Italian 
Radamisto, HWV 12 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Maité Beaumont (Alto), Laura Cherici (Soprano), Patrizia Ciofi (Soprano),
Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano), Zachary Stains (Tenor)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1712/1720; London, England 
Rodrigo, HWV 5 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Gloria Banditelli (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1707; Italy 
Date of Recording: 07/1997 
Venue:  Basilica dell'Osservanza, Siena, Italy 
Length: 154 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Fernando, Rè di Castiglia by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Marianna Pizzolato (Mezzo Soprano), Lawrence Zazzo (Countertenor), Veronica Cangemi (Soprano),
Max Emanuel Cencic (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 

Featured Sound Samples

Deidamia: Act II: "D'amor ne' primi istanti"
Radamisto: Act II: "Se vive in te il mio cor"
Admeto, Rè di Tessaglia: Act I: "Se'n vola lo sparvier"
Fernando, Rè di Castiglia: Act I: "Si, si, minaccia"

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