Handel: Lotario

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Handel Lotario
WORKS: Lotario
PERFORMER: Sara MingardoSimone KermesSonia PrinaHilary SummersSteve DavislimVito PrianteIl Complesso BaroccoAlan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 58797 2
Lotario survived for ten performances

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in 1729 and then fell into virtual

oblivion until its first modern revival

(in Henley-on-Thames) in 1975. This

is its premiere recording; and only the

most fanatical Handelian would claim

it as a masterpiece.

Even by Baroque standards, the

libretto – a quasi-historical account of dynastic rivalries in tenth-century

Italy – is ill-motivated and far-fetched.

Only Matilda, wife of the tyrant

Berengario, cuts a strong dramatic

figure, though her ruthless schemes are

thwarted with comical regularity by

her lovelorn son Idelberto. But though

some of the arias are routine Handel,

Lotario has many vivid numbers,

not only for Matilda (including a

chilling invocation to the Furies), but

also for the put-upon Adelaide, for

Berengario (above all his brooding aria

of remorse), and for the hero Lotario

himself, whose noble, richly textured

Act II aria ‘Non disperi peregrino’

is one of those show-stopping

Handelian moments.

Alan Curtis perhaps underestimates

the gravitas of certain numbers. But

he gets typically spruce, pointed

playing from his expert band, while

his cast, led by the magnificent deep

ochre tones of Sara Mingardo in

the title role, sing with style and as

much character as their music allows.

I don’t find Simone Kermes’s fast,

tight vibrato ideal for Handel, though

she phrases gracefully and summons

plenty of fire in extremis. Both the

soft-grained yet verbally incisive

Sonia Prina as Matilda and the

aptly androgynous-sounding Hilary

Summers (Idelberto) are excellent,

while Steve Davislim copes skilfully

with his taxing coloratura and brings

a grave intensity to Berengario’s

magnificent aria of remorse. Purists

will regret the cuts (mainly in

recitatives and the ‘B’ sections of arias)

made to fit Lotario on to two CDs.

Others can be assured that they are

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missing very little. Richard Wigmore