Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One of Handel’s earliest Italian operas, Rodrigo released by ambroisie

“Al Ayre Español, led by Eduardo López Banzo, plays with beautiful tone, high spirits, and dramatic nuance – the musical performances are altogether first rate and fully satisfying.”– All Music Guide on Al Ayre Español’s previous Handel recording, Amadigi di Gaula

naïve’s sister label, ambroisie, presents a new edition of one of Handel’s Italian-period masterpieces, Rodrigo, with an exceptional cast led by Maria Riccarda Wesseling in the title role, María Bayo as his wife Esilena, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as his young lover Florinda, and Max Emanuel Cencic as Fernando. Following Amadigi di Gaula earlier this year, Rodrigo is the second Handel opera on the label conducted by Eduardo López Banzo. The release follows a European tour with the same cast and orchestra, Al Ayre Español, resulting in an interpretation that will undoubtedly lead to a new understanding of the piece almost exactly 300 years after it was written.

“There can hardly be another Handel opera so fraught with unanswered questions, conjectures, and legends as Rodrigo,” writes Rainer Heyink in his fascinating booklet article on the work’s background and reconstruction. “Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria , o Rodrigo” (To conquer oneself is the greatest victory, or Rodrigo), to give its full title, is one of Handel’s earliest operas, the first he wrote after arriving in Italy in his early 20s. Until recently, despite the magnificence of the music, Rodrigo had been little heard, partly because much of the autograph score remained in fragmentary form and the extensive revisions Handel evidently made, prior to its Florence premiere in 1707, were lost. Over the past 25 years, much has been rediscovered or re-created by various musicologists. For this recording, those sections still missing were replaced as far as possible by musical material from other works by Handel, in an edition reconstructed and published under the auspices of the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. The typical opera seria plot revolves loosely around the political and marital conflicts and complications in the life of a real 8th-century Spanish king – most caused, of course, by his infidelity. His wife’s constancy, forgiveness, and wisdom prove to be everyone’s salvation in the end.

Handel: Rodrigo
Maria Riccarda Wesseling, María Bayo, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, Kobie van Rensburg, Max Emanuel Cencic, Anne-Catherine Gillet
Al Ayre Español / Eduardo López Banzo, harpsichord and conductor
AM 132
Available in the U.S. on April 28 from ambroisie

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