This album, which focuses on arias from Handel’s more rarely-performed operas, is the first that Philippe Jaroussky has devoted entirely to the composer – though his Erato discography already includes complete recordings of Faramondo, Partenope and, on DVD, Alcina, and arias by Handel feature on the countertenor’s Carestini: A Castrato’s Story. Praising Jaroussky in Handel, the New York Times has described him as “incomparable … thrilling of voice.”
Now, for the first time, Jaroussky brings his impeccable Handelian credentials to an entire album devoted to arias by the composer, who produced thirty-five operas for the London stage between 1711 and 1741. For all Handel’s current popularity, comparatively few of his operas areRead more performed with great regularity. Works such as Giulio Cesare, Alcina, Ariodante, Agrippina, Serse, Rodelinda, Rinaldo, Partenope, Orlando, and Tamerlano have achieved varying degrees of currency, but, apart from an aria from Rodelinda, Jaroussky’s new album puts the emphasis on operas we are less likely to hear in the theatre or concert hall: Amadigi di Gaula; Arianna in Creta; Flavio, re di Longobardi; Giustino; Imeneo; Radamisto (represented by no fewer than four arias); Riccardo primo, re d'Inghilterra; Siroe, re di Persia and Tolomeo, re di Egitto. A number of these operas were written for the famous castrato Senesino, who created many leading roles for Handel.
This exciting program of arias from the less familiar Handel operas demonstrates the extraordinary vocal range and skills of the Baroque-era castrati, which Jaroussky emulates in his singing, albeit with helpful transpositions to accommodate his lower range. Yet this is not all about brilliant technical displays and superior lung power, for Jaroussky also explores the expressive side of Handel's music. Erato's recording captures him with presence and clarity, and the orchestra has a luster that is enhanced by the responsive acoustics of Notre Dame du Liban, Paris.