Joyce DiDonato in Handel’s Ariodante

A new recording of Handel’s Ariodante, surely one of the composer’s most beautiful operas, highlights an exciting month of new releases from Virgin Classics for June 2011. The new recording features star mezzo Joyce DiDonato in the title role, with noted Handel specialist Alan Curtis leading Il Complesso Barocco.

In this new complete recording of Ariodante, Alan Curtis, a supreme Handelian conductor and scholar, joins forces with glorious mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato, who, with her Virgin Classics album of Handel arias, Furore, “scored a triumph…, which not only shows her phenomenal technical talent, but verily crackles with dramatic fire” (BBC).

In Ariodante, DiDonato takes the title role of a young prince – remaining in male mode throughout after her recent gender-swapping antics on the best-selling operatic recital CD, Diva, Divo. The role was written for the star castrato Carestini and includes two contrasting showpieces: “Dopo notte” and “Scherza, infida,” both of which are among the most famous of all Handel’s opera arias.

When DiDonato sang Ariodante in Geneva in 2007, the Financial Times wrote: “How confidently she brings off trouser roles and what spine-tingling effect she puts into a bravura piece such as ‘Dopo notte’”; likewise the Neue Zürcher Zeitung felt “her bright, homogeneous mezzo soprano [was] wonderfully suited to the passionate lover who, just before his wedding, believes he has been deceived by his betrothed.” The supposedly unfaithful Princess Ginevra is sung here by sensuous-toned Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, who was praised for her Handel by Opera News, which admired her “tonal substance, even at pianissimo” and “real bel canto technique, all in one voice from top to bottom”; as the review continued, “the whole aria [was] carefully shaped without breaking the Baroque boundaries.” Joining DiDonato and Gauvin in the cast are another Canadian, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Spanish soprano Sabina Puértolas, and Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu.

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