ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Arias from Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Rinaldo, Alcina, Teseo, Ariodante, Apollo e Dafne, Amadigi di Gaula, and Semele
PERFORMER: Danielle de Niese (soprano); Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: Decca 475 8746
Best known in the UK for her triumph – no other word will do – as Cleopatra in Glyndebourne’s Julius Caesar, the Australian-born American soprano, Danielle de Niese, here reveals the wider extent of her Handelian capabilities. The main Caesar arias are reprised, as delightfully as in the theatre and on DVD, though she’s arguably a shade more careful when confronted by the microphone than when let loose on stage. She takes on also two arias for Semele, who is Cleopatra’s sister beneath the skin, and once again the character suits her down to the ground. But clearly her repertoire of characterisation extends even further. The depth of feeling she applies to Ginevra’s ‘Il mio crudel martir’ from Ariodante is extraordinary, and is matched in other emotion-laden pieces such as ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from Rinaldo. Throughout De Niese demonstrates good technical skills and a keen sense of character, but above all there’s a strong artistic personality at work that enables her to make each statement her own. There are some marvellous discoveries, too, in rarities from Teseo and the cantata Apollo e Dafne. William Christie and his orchestra Les Arts Florissants dovetail with her perfectly, and the sound is nicely balanced.