Handel: Floridante

LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Floridante
PERFORMER: Marijana Mijanovi´c; Vito Priante, Joyce DiDonato; Sharon Rostorf-Zamir; Roberta Invernizzi, Riccardo Novaro; Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6566
Alan Curtis must hold the record for rapid opera production on disc for this is at least the sixth to have been released within an 18-month period. Handel’s Floridante dates from 1721 when it was staged in London in December of that year. The libretto is concerned with tyrannical Persian general, Oronte, who has usurped the throne from the rightful king whom he has killed. Its author, Paolo Rolli – who very loosely based his text on an earlier Venetian one by Francesco Silvani – has been described in a characteristically forthright manner by the Handel scholar, Winton Dean, as ‘careless and incompetent’. Handel can hardly have been pleased with it, but a greater irritation for him must have lain in having to reverse the vocal ranges of the two female roles of Elmira and Rossane. He had already written Act I and was well into Act II before learning that the soprano Margherita Durastanti, whom he had cast as Elmira, had fallen ill. In the event Durastanti’s replacement was the English contralto Anastasia Robinson, while Italian soprano Maddalena Salvai sang the role of Rossane. Curtis directs with well-paced assurance and has assembled an effective cast drawn mainly from a pool of semi-regulars. If our sensibilities are less affected by any single character than is normally the case in Handel opera then the fault lies fairly and squarely with Signor Rolli. As always with these pieces, veritable voyages of discovery, the score is generously filled with fine music. A magical scene occurs in the second act where Elmira (Joyce DiDonato) in passages of arioso and accompagnato (‘Notte cara’) longs to be reunited with Floridante. It is in Floridante himself, though that Handel invested many of the most alluring arias. From among these the Act I duet ‘Ah, mia cara’, shared with Elmira, and the melancholy, darkly coloured ‘Se dolce m’era già’ (Act III), sung with a shade too much vibrato for my ears, are perhaps the most memorable. Nicholas Anderson