Handel: Bad Guys
In his first solo disc, Catalonian countertenor Xavier Sabata joins forces with the excellent Il Pomo d’Oro in a portrayal of some of the nastiest characters to be found in six of Handel’s operas. Sabata has a warm, mellifluous voice, which tends to underplay the villainous tendencies of his ‘bad guys’. That impression is emphasised by the absence of context: there is nothing innately menacing in Adalberto’s two love arias from Ottone, for example; it is only when they take their place in the body of the opera that the dramatic subtleties of the libretto and Handel’s tonal juxtapositions illuminate the devious nature of these out-and-out rotters.
From a purely musical standpoint Sabata’s recital is rewarding. His technique and intonation are flawless. His ornaments are tastefully discreet and he seems to effortlessly surmount Handel’s exacting coloratura. If this sensitive, softly coloured voice never sufficiently projects the odious nature of characters such as Polinesso (Ariodante), it may encourage readers to acquaint (or reacquaint) themselves with Handel’s complete operas, where the villains reveal their true colours.