Handel: Ariodante

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Ariodante
PERFORMER: Lorraine Hunt, Juliana Gondek, Lisa Saffer, Jennifer Lane, Nicolas Cavallier, Rufus Müller; Wilhelmshaven Vocal Ensemble, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/ Nicholas McGegan
Handel’s Ariodante has, in addition to the usual dependable succession of wonderful arias, at least two absolute showstoppers for the singer of the title role: ‘Scherza infida’ and ‘Dopo notte’. In the latest of Nicholas McGegan’s admirable series for Harmonia Mundi, Lorraine Hunt brings off an unforgettably poignant performance of the former, the orchestra providing a ravishingly dark-hued accompaniment with melancholy bassoons. In ‘Dopo notte’, however, she is audibly taxed by the aria’s pyrotechnics (the part was written for the great castrato Carestini). She is also up against competition from one of the greatest Handelians of our time: Janet Baker, in her prime in the 1979 Philips recording with Raymond Leppard. Nor does Hunt quite convey Baker’s blazing anger in preparati a morire’, though it is still, in general, a very fine account of the role. Juliana Gondek is excellent as Ginevra, and Lisa Saffer as Dalinda. In fact, the only weak link in the Harmonia Mundi cast is the unstylish bass of Nicolas Cavallier. McGegan’s tempi are fleeter than Leppard’s (some arias are a minute or more faster) and he imparts a more dramatic sweep to the action. The orchestral playing is superb, and, odious comparisons aside, the set is a very welcome addition to an outstanding series. Barry Millington