Handel: Flavio, Re de’ Longobardi

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Flavio, Re de’ Longobardi
PERFORMER: Tim Mead, Iestyn Davies, Rosemary Joshua, Hilary Summers, Renata Pokupi´c, Thomas Walker, Andrew Foster-Williams; Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0773(2)

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This is Christian Curnyn’s third Handel recording for Chandos, and it is very welcome. Flavio has some fine music, but is rarely performed and there is only one other version on CD – by René Jacobs on Harmonia Mundi. The quirky plot makes emotional rather than historical sense. It focuses on betrothed couple Emilia and Guido, and on Teodata who is loved by Vitige but fancied by Flavio. 

The most important character, Emilia, is sung by Rosemary Joshua. The aria ‘Amante stravagante’ at the end of Act I nicely displays her bright, silvery tone. However, elsewhere – in ‘Parto sì’ from Act II for example – the constant rapid vibrato in her voice is distracting. Iestyn Davies as Guido, Thomas Walker as Ugone and Tim Mead as Flavio are all in command of those arias with rapid-fire runs, though Mead’s voice can sometimes lack focus. 

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The vocal star is Renata Pokupi´c as Vitige. Her ‘Non credo’ aria is beautifully shaped. Curnyn’s interpretations are a little colourless (the René Jacobs version is much more alert to the potential for dynamic light and shade), and sometimes destructively hurried, as in Teodata’s ‘Benchè povera’. Anthony Pryer