Handel: Handel at the Opera: Overtures, dances & arias from Alcina, Arminio, Serse, Berenice, Rinaldo, Rodelinda & Ariodante

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Handel at the Opera: Overtures, dances & arias from Alcina, Arminio, Serse, Berenice, Rinaldo, Rodelinda & Ariodante
PERFORMER: Collegium Musicum 90/Simon Standage
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0650
Handel’s barbed comment that should John Walsh ever compose music he’d gladly publish it alludes to the fact that his publisher often made more money from a work than Handel did himself. Yet, despite their ups and downs, by the 1730s Walsh had become Handel’s regular publisher, issuing complete scores and also collections of popular arias, which were often rearranged for purely instrumental use. Such collections were the only means by which aficionados could revisit favourite songs from long-gone operas.

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In the CD era, such items, even on disc, have more limited appeal: how many times will you want to hear an oboe ‘sing’ ‘Ombra mai fù’ when you can simply insert another disc and hear Ann Murray or Andreas Scholl sing it? That said, Handel at the Opera is an engaging set, never short of charm or elegance. Other arias similarly reworked here include ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ and ‘Volate, amori’, but the disc mainly comprises genuine orchestral music – overtures and dances – taken from seven titles (the bulk from Alcina and Ariodante). Handel’s melodic genius is everywhere evident and Collegium Musicum 90 are consistently stylish (if not always incisive). But an ‘opera’ disc with no singers is like bubble without squeak. Graham Lock