Handel: Ezio

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Ezio
PERFORMER: Ann Hallenberg, Karina Gauvin, Sonia Prina, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani, Vito Priante, Marianne Andersen; Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8073

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Handel’s 1732 opera, setting a libretto by the celebrated Metastasio, presents a complex story of plotting against one Roman Emperor by the man who eventually succeeded him

The general Ezio, however, who takes no part in the scheming, disappears for much of the last act, when he is presumed executed. This resulting dramatic hole may account for the work’s tepid initial reception, though the recitatives are also unusually lengthy and there is just one brief passage when more than one voice is heard singing at a time.

 
Yet on its own strict Metastasian terms Ezio works well, with a long succession of fine arias offering opportunities for six principals that are fully seized on this occasion.

Ann Hallenberg provides a crisp and purposeful delivery of the title role, with Sonia Prina offering Imperial security as the unworthy Emperor he serves. Chief plotter Massimo comes over vividly in tenor Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani’s creepily duplicitous portrayal, while Karina Gauvin uses expressive colouring to paint in the emotions of his nobler daughter, Fulvia. Marianne Andersen’s well balanced mezzo is heard here to advantage as the Emperor’s sister Honoria, while Vito Priante makes a good deal of a larger than usual bass role for Varo. 

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With keenly etched orchestral playing and lucid sound, this is an unusually consistent, dramatically motivated performance. George Hall