Handel, La Resurrezione, C. Tilling, K. Royal, S. Prina, T. Spence, L. Pisaroni, Le Concert d'Astrée, E. Haïm
Virgin Classics 694567 0 | 112'12"
The playing of Le Concert d'Astrée, under the talented direction of Emmanuelle Haïm, remains impressive, even in this live recording, compiled over three days of performances at the Opéra de Lille, shortly after last Easter (April 15 to 18, 2009 -- some of the joins between sections from different days are perhaps too noticeable). The five soloists all sound beautiful, especially a butter-smooth Camilla Tilling as the Angel, Kate Royal more rough-hewn and intense as Maria Maddalena, and Luca Pisaroni suitably villainous and snarling as Lucifero. (The soloists sing together in the chorus numbers that end each half.) There are other worthy recordings of the work, especially those by Christopher Hogwood (Academy of Ancient Music, 1981) and Marc Minkowski (Les Musiciens du Louvre, 1995). Haïm's version is just as good as either of them and priced to move (2-CD set now reduced to $14.99).
David Vickers, in the informative liner essay, reports that Handel's orchestra was one of the largest the composer ever wrote for, with 21 violins (led by none other than Arcangelo Corelli!), 4 violas, 5 cellos, 5 double basses, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone (no part surviving), and 4 oboes. One might quibble that Haïm leads a rather different ensemble, fewer strings and adding flute, recorders, and bassoon. The work has to be adapted, however, since Handel used two castrati for the Angelo and Maria Cleofe at the first performance; his choice to have Margherita Durastanti sing Maria Maddalena, in spite of Clement XI's ban on women performing music in public, drew the anger of the pope the following morning, and a castrato was substituted for the second performance on Easter Monday. (You may recall that two arias from La Resurrezione concluded Cecilia Bartoli's album Opera proibita.) While Handel likely directed these performances from the harpsichord, some of the most pleasurable moments on this recording involve the gentle combination of voices with the organ and lute that fill out Haïm's continuo group.