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Handel: Lotario / Curtis, Kermes, Mingardo, Il Complesso Barocco

Mingardo / Il Complesso Barocco / Curtis
Release Date: 09/06/2011 
Label:  Dhm Deutsche Harmonia Mundi Catalog #: 7959592   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Simone KermesHilary SummersSara MingardoVito Priante,   ... 
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

First performed in 1729 and quickly forgotten, Lotario is a worthy work with plenty of effective arias and a duet, with characters and intrigues that demand attention. Conductor Alan Curtis explains in the liner notes that he has cut the recitatives and an aria or two in order to get the work onto two CDs. I can't argue with his decision, and it's good to have such a fine performance of this unknown work available.

The plot: Berengario (tenor) wants to rule Italy, so he has murdered the king; and with his scheming wife Matilde (contralto) he tries to get Adelaide (soprano), the dead king's widow, to marry his (Berengario's) son Idelberto (contralto), who actually does love Adelaide. She of course is not interested in wedding
Read more the son of her husband's enemy, and luckily Lotario, king of Germany (contralto, originally castrato), shows up, and since he loves Adelaide, he wants to protect her. Matilde, the opera's true stinker, keeps trying to kill Adelaide. Armies fight, the bad guys are defeated, everyone forgives Matilde and Berengario, and Idelberto becomes king (but loses Adelaide), and Adelaide and Lotario are happily in love.

There's not a lot to sink your teeth into, save for the manipulations of Matilde, which are never-ending and fun, and some stunning arias, particularly the storm-tossed one for Adelaide that ends Act 1 and Lotario's determined andante that ends Act 2. This last is gorgeously sung by Sara Mingardo, whose dark, rich tone is always welcome, although for the first time on disc she sounds tentative and uninvolved most of the time. Considering Lotario is the hero, this is a problem. But soprano Simone Kermes is magnificent as Adelaide--accurate and quite daring in her vocal leaps and embellishments, occasionally sounding crazy but always interesting, indeed, riveting. Similarly, the nasty Matilde of Sonia Prina is a joy. She's not a mustache-twirling villain, and she knows how to wheedle as well as menace, using her darkish tone (though distinctly different from Mingardo's) with skill. The oddest-voiced of the three "contraltos" is Hilary Summers as Idelberto--she sounds more like a countertenor than a woman--and she's effective in her arias, especially the first, "Per salvarti, idolo mio". Steve Davislim's Berengario is not a one-dimensional meanie; he shows remorse half-way through the opera. Davislim's tenor is not particularly bright (the role sits low), but his breath control and ease with divisions is staggering--sample his second-act "D'instabile fortuna".

Curtis breathes life into each aria and paces the recitatives wisely. He takes time over the warm, loving arias and doesn't give in to the temptation to rip into the allegros. His Complesso Barocco plays with grace and elegance and the harpsichord is audible but not intrusive. Sound is excellent. This is a needed and welcome addition to the ever-growing Handel discography.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday
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Works on This Recording

Lotario, HWV 26 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Simone Kermes (Soprano), Hilary Summers (Alto), Sara Mingardo (Alto),
Vito Priante (Bass Baritone), Sonia Prina (Alto), Steve Davislim (Tenor)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1729; London, England 
Language: Italian 

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