Handel: Radamisto

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Radamisto
PERFORMER: Ralf Popken, Juliana Gondek, Lisa Saffer, Dana Hanchard, Monika Frimmer, Michael Dean, Nicolas Cavallier; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907111/13 DDD
The impressive discography of Handel operas and oratorios from Nicholas McGegan continues with this recording of Radamisto, made following staged performances of the opera at the 1993 Göttingen Handel Festival. Generally speaking, McGegan has derived better results in those sets using the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (as here) than in those made with his Californian forces. The German players sustain his brisk tempi with relative ease, though McGegan’s penchant for spiky staccato and short, snatched phrases rather than long lines does not always do the music full justice.

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With two exceptions, the cast is acceptable rather than outstanding. Dana Hanchard’s soprano, sounding for all the world like a male falsettist, is an acquired taste, but some quirks aside (notably swooping portamenti) she sings quite stylishly, as does Monika Frimmer, whose boyish tone is considerably more anaemic. Lisa Saffer is affecting in Polis sena’s Act I lament, ‘Tu vuoi ch’io parta’, while Michael Dean’s tyrant Tiridate is somewhat edgy and blustery.

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The stars are the countertenor Ralf Popken in the title role and Juliana Gondek as his long-suffering wife, Zenobia. Popken has the technique to get round the heroics of ‘Perfido’ with ease, yet delivers the expressive slow numbers, such as ‘Cara sposa’, with exquisite eloquence. Gondek is equally versatile: formidable in her rage arias, touching in the griefstricken ‘Quando mai’. Barry Millington