Notes and Editorial Reviews
"This set must certainly have a strong claim to be reckoned one of the best sung of Handel opera recordings. There is no member of the cast who is not a Handelian of high quality and natural sense of style. In the title-role Arleen Auger has little to fear from comparison with Dame Joan Sutherland on both the previous versions; what she loses in. sheer brilliance of tone or technique she makes up by the sweetness and musicality of her voice. The very first of her arias, "Di, cor mio", is lightly done, beautifully controlled, with phrase-endings delicately tapered, and the ornamentation is restrained and aptly pretty. Though the tempo is slow for her next, at risk of sentimentalization, it too is sung with refined nuance. Her
big central aria in Act 2, "Ah! mio cor!", is best of all, for its intensely musical singing and purity of tone; but here again the tempos are extreme and the effect is rather romantic to my ears in the slow music, while not all the ornamentation seems natural or stylish. Auger is at her best in the early part of the opera, lacking in the later the edge that can give full force to the scorned sorceress's angry music. The scene leading to "Ombre pallide", with its unaccompanied passage, is not done at quite high enough voltage, though the quickish tempo for the aria itself works well. But in Act 3 both arias suffer at some point from excessively slow speeds which make stylish expressive singing impossible.
Della Jones in the primo uomo role of Ruggiero, excels in the incisive music, like her two arias in Act I and the one in Act 3, though this last is rushed and becomes a shade hectic in feeling (and there is some wild ornamentation). She gives a fine performance too of the lovely "Mi lusinga", well focused in tone, strongly expressed yet always stylish. But the sensuous beauty of castrato tone needed for the finest of her arias, the incomparable "Verdi prati", perhaps understandably, eludes her; it is however well done, if marred at the end by the solecism of a large, romantic rallentando. For Kathleen Kuhlmann, the Bradamante, I have nothing but warm praise. She has a splendid natural sense of how to give direction to the music, she throws off the semiquaver passages with clarity and fire, and she conveys the character's qualities admirably with her firm line and heroic manner.
The smaller roles are taken by established British Handel singers of the middle generation. I particularly enjoyed Patrizia Kwella's singing of Oberto, a part sometimes omitted in performances; she sings with a clean line, glittering tone and a natural sense of style. The role was intended for a boy singer (I think the only one so written in a Handel opera), and it might have been an attractive idea to have had a boy record it, as with the Decca Athalia, reviewed on page 736 (it was in fact written for the same boy); but Kwella's tone and manner do have a certain direct, boyish quality. Eiddwen Harrhy's sharp and brilliant tone is well suited to the character of Alcina's sister, Morgana; she shines less perhaps in the energetic music of the First Act, some of which is rather languid and wanting in attack, than in the fine detail of her later ones—the exquisite Act 3 aria is particularly compelling, with her gleaming, almost instrumental tone (and a finely controlled pp ending) and the solo cello part done with much refinement and sensitivity. Lastly we have pleasant and graceful singing from Maldwyn Davies as Oronte, always shapely, quite assured in the rapid passage-work, and a confident, resonant if perhaps rather heavy reading from John Tomlinson of Melisso's small role."
-- S.S., Gramophone [11/1986]
Works on This Recording
Alcina, HWV 34 by George Frideric Handel
Della Jones (Mezzo Soprano),
Eiddwen Harrhy (Soprano),
Kathleen Kuhlmann (Alto),
Patrizia Kwella (Soprano),
Maldwyn Davies (Tenor),
John Tomlinson (Bass),
Ian Watson (Harpsichord),
Arleen Augér (Soprano),
John Heley (Cello),
Dorothy Linell (Lute)
London Opera Chorus,
City of London Baroque Sinfonia
Written: 1735; London, England
Venue: Abbey Road Studios No 1, London
Length: 215 Minutes 27 Secs.
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