WORKS: Italian arias for bass from Agrippina, Orlando, Siroe, re di Persia, Rodelinda, Ariodante etc
PERFORMER: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (bass-baritone), Francesco Lora, Federico Maria Sardelli, Francesco Massimi; Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8361
Though their characters are invariably secondary to the overall scheme, basses feature in all of Handel’s operas, with singers in the original productions like Antonio Montagnana, Giuseppe Maria Boschi and Gustavus Waltz regularly taking the role of a general, a king or a father, and being duly allotted an aria or two.
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo quite properly describes himself as a bass-baritone, a designation that would have meant little in Handel’s time, before the baritone voice itself was separately defined. But the main drawback to his vocalism is that his voice hits some weak spots at the bottom of the range, and occasionally at the top, though his middle range is excellent.
Handel tailored his arias around each individual singer, and some of them clearly had extraordinary ranges – well over two octaves in Montagnana’s case. D’Arcangelo is not the first lower-voiced singer to borrow ‘Ombra mai fù’ from Serse – Enrico Caruso recorded it back in 1920 – but its original exponent, the alto castrato Caffarelli, was clearly not a bass.
D’Arcangelo articulates rapid-fire coloratura efficiently throughout, though his use of aspirates involves a certain amount of huffing and puffing. The accompaniments are cleanly delivered by the period-instrument band and the sound warm and clear. George Hall