Hidden Handel, Ann Hallenberg’s recital with Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, needs some explanation. The operas are familiar, but the arias are not. Nine of the 12 are recorded for the first time here and three were written for insertion into Alessandro Scarlatti’s Pirro e Demetrio. Meanwhile, the exquisite ‘Sa perché pena il cor’, thought to have been intended for a 1717 revival of Teseo, may never have been performed in Handel’s lifetime.
These are all arie aggiunte, written to be placed into existing works upon their revival with a different cast, and tell us as much about the singers of Handel’s era as they do about the characters they played. For Hallenberg, there is an extra challenge as she adapts her sound to repertoire tailored to distinct and varied types of voice. Anastasia Robinson’s limpid arias for the various revivals of Rinaldo are a breeze and the coloratura written for castrato Antonio Bernacchi holds no fear. Though Faustina Bordoni’s music lies higher, the bosky ‘Solitudini amate’ (Amadigi) is beautifully shaped. But it is in Margherita Durastanti’s ‘Io d’alto regno... Dimmi, crudele amor’ (from Muzio Scevola) that Hallenberg is at her most impressive.