Handel, Berenice, Regina d'Egitto,
K. Ek, I. Bohlin, R. Basso,
Il Complesso Barocco, A. Curtis
(released on July 13, 2010)
Virgin 6285362 0 | 166'35"
Handel, Berenice, Regina d'Egitto
W. Dean, Handel's Operas, 1726-1741
At the top of the fine cast is the Swedish soprano Klara Ek, whose remarkable voice and virtuoso technique we have admired before. She is at her best perhaps in the great aria of this opera's third act, Chi t'intende, with its extended obbligato oboe part, written for Handel's oboist Giuseppe Sammartini and played excellently here by Patrick Beaugirard. (Handel transferred this aria from Fabio, in the original Salvi libretto, to Berenice, to brilliant effect: Dean observes that it "leaves the impression not of a da capo aria, but of a freely organized scena, [with] almost the impact of a mad scene.") Another singer often admired at Ionarts, mezzo-soprano Romina Basso, brings the role of Berenice's sister (and rival), Selene, to vivid life with her rich lower register (if perhaps a tendency toward overactive trilled 'r'). Rounding out the cast are the clear-toned soprano Ingela Bohlin as Alessandro (the suitor sent by Rome to seek Berenice's hand), the full-blooded countertenor Franco Fagioli as Demetrio (the prince Berenice wants to wed but who instead wants to marry her sister), suave bass Vito Priante as Aristobolo (Berenice's trusted counselor), and potent mezzo-soprano Mary-Ellen Nesi as Arsace (who also seeks Selene's hand). Slightly less pleasing is the overly nasal tenor Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani as the Roman ambassador Fabio. The score can be austere, orchestrated with only two oboes and bassoon plus the strings, but has many passages of exceptional beauty.