PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato, Karina Gauvin, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Sabina Puértolas, Topi Lehtipuu, Matthew Brook, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani; Il Complesso Barocco/ Alan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: Virgin 070 8442
Recordings of Ariodante tend to sink or swim on the performance of one aria. Composed for the castrato Giovanni Carestini in 1734, ‘Scherza infida’ marked a new sophistication in Handel’s writing. Add to this the scornful ‘Tu preparati a morire’ and the lacerating misery of ‘Cieca notte’, and you have a title role fit for any divo or diva. Yet in Alan Curtis’s scrupulously detailed performance, Joyce DiDonato’s gleaming legato and coloratura are upstaged by the elegance of Karina Gauvin’s Ginevra.
While DiDonato offers recklessly inventive da capo decorations, Gauvin favours measured pathos. Her ‘Io ti bacio’ is outstanding, but so is ‘Manca, oh Dei!’. Among the supporting cast, Marie-Nicole Lemieux clearly relishes Polinesso’s scheming in ‘Se l’inganno sortisce’.
Ariodante is littered with dances and Il Complesso Barocco glows proudly in the masque that marks the resolution of Ginevra and Ariodante’s trials. For a knockout ‘Scherza infida’, turn to Anne Sofie von Otter and Marc Minkowski on Deutsche Grammophon or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Nicholas McGegan on Harmonia Mundi. But for a complex and moving Ginevra, this is the Ariodante to have. Anna Picard