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Available at Amazon:
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Handel, Floridante, M. Mijanović, J. DiDonato, Il Complesso Barocco, A. Curtis
(released April 10, 2007)

Other Reviews:

Anthony Holden (The Observer, April 15)

Tim Pfaff (Bay Area Reporter, April 12)

George Loomis (Disc of the Month, Opera Magazine, May 2007)

Mark Sealey (Classical Net)
Last summer, I reviewed a new opera recorded by musicologist Alan Curtis's Il Complesso Barocco, Vivaldi's Motezuma, and the year before that Jens reviewed two Handel operas by the group, Radamisto and Rodelinda. The operas of Handel should dispel the idea of a Baroque opera score as fixed in any way, as the composer reused and recast his works and pieces of his works so much. A musicologist, Hans Dieter Clausen, had to tease apart the various versions as part of his work on the critical edition of this opera, Il Floridante (HWV 14), for Die Hallische Händel-Ausgabe, the excellent new Handel collected works edition from Bärenreiter. A venerable Handel authority, Prof. Clausen wrote his dissertation on the autograph "conducting scores" that Handel used and annotated (Händels Direktionspartituren, U. Hamburg, 1969).

This recording is the first to use Clausen's new edition, and in it Curtis and his musicians attempt "to return to Handel's original conception" of the opera, as Clausen writes in his informative liner notes (The ideal Floridante). Most importantly, Handel initially planned to cast soprano Margherita Durastanti in the role of Elmira, but she was unavoidably detained in Italy at the time of the premiere. Ultimately, Handel was forced to recast the opera with the seconda donna, contralto Anastasia Robinson, as Elmira. The English singer was originally given the role of Rossane, which was now reworked for a new soprano, Maddalena Salvai. Paolo Antonio Rolli freely adapted the libretto (.PDF file) from an earlier Venetian opera, Francesco Silvani's La costanza in trionfo, set to music by Marc'Antonio Ziani. The synopsis may help you make more sense of the plot, but it's complicated, if still dramatically compelling, in a Baroque opera kind of way.

Il Complesso Barocco:

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Vivaldi, Motezuma

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Handel, Radamisto

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Handel, Rodelinda
Here we have the unclassifiable Marijana Mijanović taking the role of Floridante, created by the alto castrato Senesino. We have already admired Mijanović's almost countertenorish contralto in Vivaldi's Bajazet and in other operas with Il Complesso Barocco: here she is at her best, least troubled by some of the quirks of her voice, in the luscious slow arias Se dolce m'era già and Questi ceppi e quest'orrore of Act III. Floridante, Prince of Thrace, seeks the hand of Elmira, who was adopted by Oronte, the usurper King of Persia. The ravishing mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato handles the soprano version of the role with panache, as in the dazzlingly dramatic exit aria Barbaro, t'odio a morte in Act II. The problem is that now Oronte, sung by the vibrant bass Vito Priante, is pursuing his own adopted daughter. Rossane, Oronte's actual daughter (sung by Sharon Rostorf-Zamir), hopes to be united with her betrothed, the Prince of Tyre, Timante, a role created by the soprano castrato Berselli. The singing from soprano Roberta Invernizzi in this role is the other major standout of the recording, after DiDonato and Mijanović. This arrangement means that Floridante is yet another opera where both pairs of lovers are all sung by treble voices.

This is a singular recording, of exceptional musicological interest and beautifully sung and played. Curtis draws another fine performance from his instrumental ensemble (this opera's overture is a gem) and plays the harpsichord for the recitatives. His style is more judicious than the flashier Christophe Rousset and not as intellectual as the distant (but glorious) William Christie. The embellishments on the da capo repeats, probably the work of Alan Curtis, are extensive and impressive, while sounding appropriate to each voice. Much of the most memorable music is in the second act, like Rossane's perky Gode l'alma innamorata, Floridante's fiery exit aria Bramo te sola, the gorgeous duet Fuor di periglio with Water Music-like horn obbligati, and Elmira's murky arioso Notte cara. Listen to some excerpts to judge for yourself.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Roberta Invernizzi is the best in this recording, even better than Didonato