Handel: Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
Fabio Bonizzoni and La Risonanza ravish the ear with this latest addition to their Handel series. Musically independent from the later Acis and Galatea, this 1708 version of Ovid’s tale was composed in Naples by a 23-year-old Handel out to make his mark. It indulges in rapturous duets, dazzling passaggi ornamentation and hushed laments.
Bonizzoni propels the action forward in defiance of a somewhat halting story line. The deftness of tempos, sweetness of variations, detailing of dynamics, and above all the musicians’ total investment in the drama are irresistible. When Polifemo, stymied by the lovers’ fidelity, crushes his rival Aci with a rock, the shock is real: not just because Aci’s visceral cry is unaccompanied, but also because the strings taking up the following aria sound limp and crushed. Bonizzoni’s dream team includes Roberta Invernizzi (Aci) and the Argentinian bass Lisandro Abadie (Polifemo); together they ignite the other performers, spurring the ensemble to new affective heights. Invernizzi makes the emotions of the stereotypical shepherd Aci wholly credible through her sensitivity, nimble execution and luminous vocal colours. Equally convincing is Abadie’s embodiment of Polifemo. Like Aci, his arias range from vulnerability to outrage, but unlike Aci, Polifemo voices monstrous extremes of range, leaps, and coloratura that Abadie turns into all-too-human expression.
The superiority of this Aci, Galatea e Polifemo is also evident in a comparison with the much-lauded 2003 recording by Le Concert d’Astrée on Virgin Classics. The sound reproduction and liner notes are likewise superb. This is a benchmark recording of Aci, Galatea e Polifemo.