COMPOSERS: George Frideric Handel
ALBUM TITLE: George Frideric Handel
PERFORMER: Magnus Staveland, Ann Hallenberg, Fabrizio Beggi, Cristiana Arcari, Monica Piccinini; Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
CATALOGUE NO: Glossa GCD 923405
Handel’s penultimate Italian opera found little favour at its 1740 London premiere. Undeterred by what Fabio Biondi admits is a libretto ‘almost bereft of any dramatic sense’, Handel revised Imeneo for a new cast in 1742, presenting a concert performance in Dublin. Much of the action occurs before the curtain rises: Tirinto’s lover Rosmene is abducted by pirates and rescued by Imeneo, who asks for her hand in marriage. In Acts I and II, the suitors argue their claims with variable gallantry. In Act III, Rosmene fakes supernatural possession, bidding a tender farewell to Tirinto before she elects to marry Imeneo. It’s nonsense, but reflects a society in which love seldom triumphed over duty.
Oboes and bassoon are excised from the orchestra, in keeping with the forces used for the Dublin Messiah. Directing from the violin, Biondi shapes a performance in which the depth of preparation results in music-making that sounds entirely spontaneous. There’s a startling variety of articulation and colour from his tiny band, and beautifully responsive continuo playing. Ann Hallenberg delivers Tirinto’s grave serenades and intricate passagework with unruffled ease and an alluringly mellow tone. As Rosmene, Monica Piccinini sings prettily in Acts I and II, and more daringly in the Act III possession sequence. Magnus Staveland conveys louche glamour in the swashbuckling title role.