Handel: Overtures and Arias

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: NAIVE
WORKS: Overtures and arias: Poro, re delle indie; Orlando; Radamisto; Flavio, re dei longobardi; Tamerlano; Ezio; Rinaldo; Alessandro; Amadigi di Gaula; Ottone, re di Germania
PERFORMER: Sandrine Piau (soprano), Sara Mingardo (contralto); Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30483

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Duets and other ensembles figure rarely in Handel’s operas; there’s one in each, if you’re lucky. Bringing together soprano and contralto, this CD makes a feature of them, but the idea has not been consistently carried through. Its 15-minute selection from Alessandro, for instance, includes none; and elsewhere we have a handful of arias and the odd overture.It’s a good opportunity partially missed.

Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo are nevertheless skilled duettists in the six examples offered, in complete vocal and psychological synch at best, even if Piau’s thinner and (on the odd note) slightly hooty quality registers as pallid by comparison with Mingardo’s larger, richer tone.

The contralto’s warmer voice and facility for rapid-fire coloratura distinguish Andronico’s ‘Più di una tigre altero’ from Tamerlano; Piau uses some rather eccentric expressive devices in Fulvia’s ‘Ah! Non son io che parlo’ from Ezio. Some effects in Lisaura’s ‘No, più soffrir non voglio’ from Alessandro are a shade beyond her.

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But they rise to considerable achievements together, especially when the violently contrasting musical material reflects opposed psychological states, as in the example from Poro. Alessandrini and his band provide spirited and vivid accompaniments. George Hall