Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is an untouchably great performance of one of Handel's most interesting oratorios: its examination of jealousy is on a par with what can be found in Otello and Pelléas. There's drama galore--in fact, during its first run it was referred to as a "musical drama" (rather than an oratorio), and Handel and his librettist, Thomas Broughton, always referred to its "acts" rather than "parts", as sections of oratorios were commonly known.
The role of Hercules, a bass, is taken by Gidon Saks, who has a voice of flexibility and power. An Israeli who studied in England and Canada, his English diction is superb, and he paints a picture of a leader who is
trying to keep his kingdom intact while dealing with his unstable wife, Dejanira. As his son, Hyllus, Richard Croft's tenor is amazingly agile, and he easily executes all of the runs and fiorature in his many arias. He also paints the text well, and we believe him whether he is declaring love for Iole or feeling grief for Hercules. Iole, the captive brought back from the wars by Hercules and who is the object of Dejanira's jealousy, is sung by Lynne Dawson at her absolute best--tonally pure, angry, fluent. David Daniels is remarkable in the small(ish) role of the Herald, Lichas (talk about luxury casting!).
But the star is Anne Sofie von Otter as Dejanira: the role is juicy beyond belief, her unrelenting jealousy and manipulation being superbly expressed. The huge mad scene, "Where shall I fly?", after Hercules goes up in flames because of her, is epic; here and throughout, Otter is animated, sincere, vocally impeccable, and totally committed. Marc Minkowski and his musicians are first rate, with tempos quick but never blurred and dramatic points artfully underlined. This set easily replaces one from the 1980s under John Eliot Gardiner--a German-language version (called "Herakles") that's good but not easy to find and not in a class with this one. This is a Rolls Royce of a show. Don't miss it.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Hercules, HWV 60 by George Frideric Handel
Lynne Dawson (Soprano),
Gidon Saks (Bass),
David Daniels (Countertenor),
Anne Sofie von Otter (Soprano),
Richard Croft (Tenor),
Marcos Pujol (Bass)
Les Musiciens du Louvre,
Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre
Written: 1744; London, England
Date of Recording: 04/2000
Venue: Salle Molière, Théâtre de Poissy, France
Length: 176 Minutes 9 Secs.
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