ALBUM TITLE: Queens
WORKS: Handel: arias from Lotario, Poro, Berenice, Giulio Cesare, Scipione, Alcina and Giustino
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi (soprano); Accademia Hermans/Fabio Ciofini
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922904
A well-established Baroque artist, Roberta Invernizzi’s hallmark is unfamiliar repertory, either of 18th-century composers or star singers. This programme combines both, featuring lesser-known arias written by Handel for two of his top sopranos, Francesca Cuzzoni and Anna Maria Strada del Pò. Playing beleaguered queens – the standard role for a Baroque prima donna – these sopranos clearly fired Handel’s musical imagination.
Invernizzi is often in top voice here. Her coloratura is electrifying; one can’t imagine a more commanding Berenice in ‘Scoglio d’immota fronta’. She handles pathos exquisitely, as in Alcina’s unaccompanied opening of ‘Ah mio cor, schernito sei!’ which Invernizzi delivers in a straight tone, like a low moan. The musicianship of all the performers is impeccable, as they collectively heighten Handel’s crunchy dissonances, hushed silences, taut bass lines and impulsive leaps.
But Invernizzi’s delicacy isn’t quite equal to her own earlier recordings. Her vibrato is over-applied and sometimes a little too broad. She tends to scoop up to notes, and to bustle forward, rather than letting the still beauty of phrases sink in. And she doesn’t spark with Fabio Ciofini the way she has with other directors. We get poise, rather than the crackling invention that took her Handel cantatas with Fabio Bonizzoni to another level. This is nonetheless a sovereign performance, worthy of its original Queens.