Handel: Opera Arias

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Opera Arias
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); Hanover Band/Roy Goodman
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61205-2 DDD
Success in Wagner is by no means a guarantee of success in the very different discipline of Baroque music. But the young French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann is no ordinary singer. Her Erda in Das Rheingold is only one of a string of credits she already has to her name, and this new disc of Handel opera arias shows that this totally different idiom is also well within her grasp.

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It is a full, well-rounded, slightly fruity contralto voice, but well-schooled too, with no surplus fat and no intrusive vibrato. Its owner knows how to display it both in vigorous numbers such as ‘Furibondo spira il vento’ (Partenope), where the suffering of the soul is likened to the furious buffeting of the wind. But it is equally effective in laments, of which there are several here. In ‘Se dolce m’era gia’ (Floridante), for example, her vocal lines, with their sorrowfully drooping figures, are heavy with grief, and there is also a wonderfully expressive use of the bottom register.

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The accompaniments by the Hanover Band under Roy Goodman are exemplary. I especially relished the prancing staccato of the hunter stalking his prey in ‘Va tacito’ (Giulio Cesare). The selection of numbers avoids the predictable, and a useful booklet note draws attention to subtleties of the Handelian aria. Barry Millington