The contralto Nathalie Stutzmann was not yet 30 years of age when she made this extraordinarily dramatic recording of arias from Handel’s Italian operas. It showcases her impressive depth of tone, a voice of tremendous – indeed, in these days, almost unrivalled – projection that inevitably brings to mind the great contraltos of yore from Clara Butt to Marian Anderson.
Stutzmann was, and remains, however, an entirely modern artist, who has continued to innovate in her choice of repertoire and musical partners. Many of these arias were written for castrati and countertenors, who nonetheless sang, we are led to believe, with quite a different, more earthy timbre, than we are accustomed to hear from countertenors today.
In that sense Stutzmann’s assumption of these often powerfully dramatic scenes of love and rage and despair presents an intriguing throwback to the age when they were first performed, especially when, as here, she is accompanied by a period-instrument band who are themselves soaked in Handel’s idiom.
“[The recital] begins superbly, leaping in with the magnificent ‘Fammi combattere’, sung here in a truly grand manner – as indeed everything is, for Stutzmann has a commanding style and a tremendous
technique, allied to a very powerful contralto. She is an exceptionally rhythmic singer, and produces immense fire in the quick numbers, among them the big outburst from Partenope, ‘Furibondo’, and the first of the two from
Floridante, as well as parts of the Mad Scene from Orlando, in which too, she is very successful at conveying, musically, the character’s slipping into madness through her softening of the voice.”
“a thrilling recital of plangent and heroic arias”
“what we hear on this disc is a still very young singer. Her distinctive dark timbre and fluent technique were already her hallmarks...There is glorious singing throughout the recital and Roy Goodman draws vivacious and stylish playing from the excellent Hanover Band. It is great to have this disc available again. Handel lovers should place their orders at once.”
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