On their new all-Handel album, soprano Sandrine Piau and contralto Sara Mingardo sing duets from Handel’s operas Poro, re dell’Indie, Orlando , Radamisto, Tamerlano, Rinaldo, and Ottone, re di Germania with Concerto Italiano under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini. Additional tracks feature overtures and arias from Handel’s Flavio, Ezio, Alessandro, and Amadigi di Gaula.
Piau’s all-Handel recital for naïve, Opera Seria, with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques was a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” in January 2005. Reviewer David Vickers summed up the album’s attractions succinctly: “This is without doubt the finest recital of Handel arias I have ever heard.”
Sara Mingardo has an extensive and distinguished discography with naïve that includes a recital of arias by Handel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and other Baroque composers with Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano. That album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection (December 2004). The headline of David Vickers’s review read: “Spellbinding – a Baroque singer’s art at its most gorgeous and intense.”
From the liner notes by Philippe Venturini
“Let’s enjoy ourselves!” That’s what the artists decided to do, recalls Sandrine Piau. Before thinking about the composition of the program, the selection and ordering of the arias, the two singers began with a desire to make music together. Yet they hadn’t seen very much of each other previously. They had recently appeared together in a concert of cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Handel, and Porpora, in the company of Rinaldo Alessandrini.
“I immediately felt vocal and musical affinities with Sara,” says Sandrine enthusiastically. And Sara Mingardo felt she was “in harmony” with Sandrine Piau, whom she regards as “the greatest interpreter of Handel” and with whom she “can sight-read a score very fast and immediately share the same phrasings.” With the two voices in perfect agreement to set out on this adventure, they needed to settle on a destination. The 19th century, which they both visit regularly despite their profile as “Baroque specialists”? No, that didn’t suit either of them. Then the promising subject of Handel opera came up, and quickly convinced both ladies. “Sara’s low register, as a true contralto and not a mezzo-soprano, was very well suited to the many roles he wrote for castratos,” adds Sandrine Piau.
All that was lacking to weigh anchor and follow a detailed chart was the captain: Rinaldo Alessandrini was the right man for the job. He works regularly with Sara Mingardo, and together they have made several memorable recordings. Sandrine Piau took to him straight away: “It was love at first sight! Italian musicians always have a feeling for lyricism, a wish to preserve the voice, to showcase it, to make it sound its best. And Rinaldo, who sings very well himself, senses exactly whether the tempo suits the voice or not.”