PERFORMER: Franco Fagioli, Helene Schneiderman, Jutta Böhnert, Kai Wessel, Matthias Rexroth, Olga Polyakova; Stuttgart State Orchestra/Konrad Junghänel
CATALOGUE NO: 83.437 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Handel’s third London opera (1713) remains one of his least well known in modern times. But it’s an interesting piece, derived from a libretto written by Quinault for Lully’s Thésée (1675). Remade into an Italian opera, it retains some features of the French model, notably in the spectacular effects associated with the sorceress Medea, whose vengeful spell to destroy the palace
at Athens is overturned by Minerva.
In this version Medea still longs for her errant lover Theseus, the saviour of Athens, but he prefers the charms of Agilea, whom the Athenian king, Egeo, also desires. Permutations of these conflicting interests motivate the plot until Medea is defeated when Egeo recognises in Theseus his own son, resigning both throne and Agilea to him. On this live recording made in Stuttgart in May 2009, Helene Schneiderman speaks one of the libretto’s recitatives not set by
Handel that helps clarify the plot.
Her performance is the finest on show, a movingly sung presentation of one of those transgressive women whom Handel portrayed so sympathetically. As Teseo, Franco Fagioli’s shining countertenor is often elegantly used, though his diction is sometimes occluded – a general fault in an acoustic not friendly to words.
Soprano Jutta Böhnert is broadly efficient as Agilea, and sometimes more. Neat orchestral playing and effective conducting from Konrad Junghänel, though overall Marc Minkowski’s version on Erato is preferable. George Hall