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Heroes and Heroines - Handel / Sarah Connolly


Release Date: 10/19/2004 
Label:  Coro   Catalog #: 16025   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


And the mezzo lode continues to run as rich and high-quality as ever, supplying the world with yet another first-rate singer. Of course, Sarah Connolly hasn't exactly come out of nowhere: she's been a member of The Sixteen Choir and has made acclaimed appearances for the past several years in opera roles and concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe. This collaboration with her former Sixteen conductor, Harry Christophers, reveals the impressive maturity and technique of Connolly along with Christophers' solid command of Handelian drama. The repertoire may not be the most common collection of arias (only one is very familiar), but the selection is no less engaging for that; the idea of this recital
Read more was to "depict not only the close links between opera and oratorio in Handel's works but also equate the position of hero and heroine." Interesting programming concept aside, what you hear is top-notch Handel singing in some very characterful and artistically challenging pieces.


From Connolly's first notes, "Sta nell' Ircana" from Alcina, we have no doubt about this voice's considerable dramatic capabilities, and we can't help but be impressed with both her range (free of discernible register breaks) and ease of delivery from top to bottom. By the aria's end she's confirmed the power of her lowest register notes and ability to fully embody and project her character. I'm not wild about her "ha-ha-ha-ha-ha" articulation in one of the aria's repeated figures, but since she doesn't exhibit this annoying mannerism anywhere else, I assume it's an intended "effect" (imitating the orchestral figures, perhaps?) and only mention it because it's so striking and uncharacteristic of her singing in general.


Connolly is just as convincing and her voice is as lovely in the slower arias, including "Mi lusingha il dolce affetto" from Alcina (all seven minutes of it!). Her breath control is amazing and she completely enthralls with her attractive, sensible ornaments. And she's lucky to have such a partner in Christophers and his attentive orchestra: listen as he takes Connolly's lead from the intro to Ariodante's tender "Scherza infida" and hands her a perfectly set atmosphere of sorrow and tragic determination. This is the highlight of the CD, Connolly's subtle vocal shading, expressive phrasing, and vibrant tone varying from gently floating to more emphatically projected--the definition of captivating.


Other listeners may cite the following "Dopo notte", a brisk, high-energy aria from the same opera, as the most impressive of Connolly's performances, and it would be hard to argue in light of the singer's command of the reams of rapid runs and wildly leaping lines while maintaining the flow and emotional intensity of this fiendishly difficult seven minutes of music. And then there's the beloved and oft-performed "Verdi prati", which Connolly renders as sensitively and with as sumptuous a tone and smoothly-spun legato as we could hope for. The final "Where shall I fly?" from Hercules is a magnificent display of virtuoso vocalism, although I still prefer Stephanie Blythe's more fluid, richer-voiced rendition--purely a matter of personal taste. And again, much credit must go to Christophers' smart orchestral leadership and to the crisply pointed accents, finely honed rhythms, and warm sound of the Symphony of Harmony and Invention, recorded to the highest modern standard. Some errors in the packaging list several incorrect track timings, but these all indicate that we get less of Connolly when actually we get more--and that's definitely a good thing. [10/11/2004]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Alcina, HWV 34: Act 3 Sinfonia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
2. Alcina, HWV 34: Sta nell' Ircana pietrosa tana by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
3. Alcina, HWV 34: Mi lusinga il dolce affetto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
4. Solomon, HWV 67: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
5. Solomon, HWV 67: May peace in Salem...Will the sun forget to by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
Language: English 
6. Ariodante, HWV 33: Sinfonia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; London, England 
7. Ariodante, HWV 33: Scherza infida, in grembo al drudo by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
8. Ariodante, HWV 33: Dopo notte by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
9. Alcina, HWV 34: Act 3 Entrée by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
10. Alcina, HWV 34: Verdi prati by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; London, England 
Language: Italian 
11. Hercules, HWV 60: Act 2 Sinfonia by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
12. Hercules, HWV 60: Where shall I fly? by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Language: English 
13. Hercules, HWV 60: Cease, ruler of the day, to rise by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Sarah Connolly (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1745; London, England 
Language: English 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Dissembling, false, perfidious..." 

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