Handel: Deidamia

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Albany
WORKS: Deidamia
PERFORMER: Julianne Baird, Brenda Harris, John Cheek, D’Anna Fortunato; Palmer Singers, Brewer CO/Rudolph Palmer
Rudolph Palmer has recorded several rarely heard operas and oratorios by Handel over the past ten years or so. Siroe – one of his most successful ventures – Faramondo and Berenice remain, as far as I know, the only versions in the current catalogue. Palmer has now added Handel’s last opera Deidamia to his list of first recordings. The work was unenthusiastically received at its first performance in 1741, and thereafter Handel directed his energy and talent towards English oratorio. Rolli’s libretto is quite entertaining in its handling of the story of princess Deidamia and her love for Achilles during the period of the Trojan Wars; and it perhaps goes without saying that Handel provided some alluring music. Sadly, this new release does not offer the listener a convincing account of the piece. Julianne Baird, in the title role, and D’Anna Fortunato (Achilles) have been among the strongest features of Palmer’s previous recordings, but here sound insecure and sometimes strained. The first act comes off worst with disappointing performances from all the soloists accompanied by thin and scrawny period-instrument string-playing. Acts II and III feel and sound more stable and authoritative with some fine characterisation from Baird in her declamatory ‘Và, perfido’ and from Brenda Harris (Ulysses) in her subtle ‘Nò, nò, nò, quella beltà non amo’, both from Act II. But isolated achievements such as these are not enough to save the release from being something of a disappointment. Nicholas Anderson