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Joyce DiDonato - Furore (Handel Opera Arias)
This gripping recital of Handel ‘mad scenes’ is the first release from American mezzo Joyce DiDonato as an exclusive artist for Virgin and EMI Classics.
Over the past five years DiDonato has enjoyed an uninterrupted series of triumphs as an opera singer and recitalist in Europe and the USA. As the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s magazine Opera News wrote: ‘The buoyant progress of DiDonato’s career... has been one of the happiest opera events of the past decade’.
At the heart of her stage repertoire are Handel, Mozart and Rossini, though it also embraces Donizetti, Bellini, Massenet, Strauss and modern works, such as Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. Her signature role is probably Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, which has taken her to New York’s Metropolitan, the Chicago Lyric, the Paris Opéra, London’s Royal Opera, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Houston, San Francisco, Bologna and Rossini’s birthplace, Pesaro. For her Met performances of Rosina in 2007, broadcast across the USA on HDTV, she received the prestigious Beverly Sills Award.
This recital of Handel arias with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques was recorded at concert performances in April 2008 at Brussels’ Théâtre de la Monnaie. Reporting on the concert, Forum Opéra said: “The mezzo takes this repertoire seriously and she has the means to deliver on her promises … as she demonstrated in dazzling, often intoxicating fashion. The flexibility of her instrument is amazing; and as if her true, vital coloratura and her exemplary legato were not enough in themselves, she brings all her resources to bear on sculpting the music, throwing out brilliant top notes, venturing powerful crescendos and raising the stakes in virtuosity. She both surprises and delights …”
A highlight of the programme is Dejanira’s climactic scene from Hercules. DiDonato’s stage performance as Hercules’ wife at London’s Barbican, with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (in a production also seen in France and the US), earned her a nomination for a Laurence Olivier Award. The Guardian commented that: ‘Joyce DiDonato gives the performance of a lifetime, hurling out coloratura with the fury of a psychopath before descending into insanity’. In late 2007 she assumed two Handel title roles: Alcina and, at the Geneva Opera, Ariodante, prompting Le Figaro to praise the “moving perfection of her line and her singing, which conveys the emotions of the betrayed lover and does justice to all the colours in the music.”
“When given the treasured opportunity to record my first solo aria disc, I knew immediately that I wanted it to be dedicated to the works of Handel, for his music and his characters offer me the chance to take a profoundly emotional journey: nothing can remain on the surface – he constantly invites you to delve deeper. I thought it worthwhile to explore some of these rich, complicated, often lost characters to whom he devoted so much creative energy, to examine their psyches – searching for the reasons for their fury or despair – and to find their humanity. Fortunately, this is what Handel excelled at: eliciting the vulnerable, human side of these characters as they are often pushed into tragic circumstances. I'm constantly astonished to discover time and again how much beauty he finds in their (our?) suffering, how he gives melodic flight to such tragedy and such fire to their fury.” Joyce DiDonato
“DiDonato tackles this catalogue of emotional meltdowns with customary gusto. Sampled track-by-track, it's a thrilling operatic show case…” BBC Music Magazine, November 2008 ****
“The pieces are by no means all "furious". But most are passionate, and passion is something that DiDonato does well… A good example is the accompanied recitative "Orride larve" from Admeto, where the king rages at his fate. The following aria is quite different, a calm acceptance of death that DiDonato sings with affecting simplicity.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2009
“...an exhilarating roller-coaster of a recital from a charismatic singing-actress.” The Telegraph, 7th November 2008
“One of the most enjoyable 'gems from' Handel discs in recent years was 'Amor e gelosia', a recital of duets sung by Patrizia Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato (see above). DiDonato now presents a selection of arias, entitled 'Furore', that is just as fine; indeed, it's superior in that the accompaniment is provided by a chamber orchestra rather than the spare tones of the one-to-a-part Il Complesso Barocco.
The pieces are by no means all 'furious'. But most are passionate, and passion is something that DiDonato does well. A good example is the accompanied recitative 'Orride larve' from Admeto, where the king rages at his fate. The following aria is quite different, a calm acceptance of death that DiDonato sings with affecting simplicity.
Would that the same could be said of her cadenzas and embellishments. As with many other singers, the decorations hover on the borders of good taste; and starting the da capo of 'Sorge all'alma' a third higher was not a good idea.
The selection is refreshingly unhackneyed, 'Scherza infida' from Ariodante and 'Where shall I fly?' from Hercules being among the few predictable arias; and although there is an excerpt from Serse, it isn't 'Ombra mai fu'. Full marks for including some secco recitatives.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Technically, she can't be bettered. Her legato is exceptionally smooth, particularly notably in Ariodante's ''Scherza infida'', her coloratura is dazzling, her high notes perfect even in the heat of passion, and her dynamic range is a joy...All in all, a marvellous solo album debut.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 28th November 2008
“DiDonato uses her first solo aria disc, recorded live, to bring her rare dramatic intensity and purity of tone to 14 mad scenes from Handel...But there are calmer beauties here, too, in a collection that stands way out from the recent spate of Handel recitals.” The Guardian, 5th October 2008
“DiDonato holds the listener in her grip through every response, and her bravura in anger is matched by her moments of tenderness. Christophe Rousset provides fine supportive accompaniments with Les Talens Lyriques, and if you enjoy vocal fireworks this can be strongly recommended.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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Danielle de Niese - Handel Arias
The debut solo recording from Danielle de Niese, who became a star overnight after her stunning 'all singing, all dancing' performance as Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne in 2005. Danielle signs a selection of Handel arias from both famous and lesser-known works which showcase perfectly her extraordinary dramatic range and vocal abilities.
“De Niese demonstrates good technical skills and a keen sense of character, but above all there's a strong artistic personality at work that enables her to make each statement her own.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2008 ****
“When it comes to sorceresses, de Niese is splendid. The two arias for Medea in Teseo are well contrasted. "Dolce riposo" is a duet for voice and oboe over a pulsating string accompaniment, sung with an affecting gentleness, while "O stringerò nel' sen" is a fiery expression of jealousy. ” Gramophone Magazine, June 2008
“Her singing is utterly delectable and completely assured.” The New York Times
“De Niese can certainly "sell" a number. She makes each of these arias an emotional journey, heightening the expression when the first section is repeated. Semele's "Myself I Shall Adore" becomes increasingly, and delightfully, dizzy, with narcissistic flights of ornamentation, while at the opposite end of the spectrum she suggests a new intensity of grief towards the end of Ginevra's "Il mio crudel martoro" ( Ariodante ), with a "soured" colouring on the key word "moro" - dying.
What makes me faintly uneasy is the less than even quality of de Niese's voice and her reluctance to sing either a true legato or a true pianissimo, though the ultra-close miking must take some of the blame here. Her bright, slender soprano, with its distinctive quick vibrato, has an attractive hint of smokiness in the middle register. Higher up, it can become thin and squally - I noticed this especially in her no-holds-barred performances of Cleopatra's "Da tempeste" and Morgana's "Tornami a vagheggiar" ( Alcina ).
Yet for all her vocal imperfections, De Niese brings each of these characters to vivid life.” The Times, 10th May 2008
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Handel - Arias
Handel, a child of his time, was fascinated by the poignant human dramas and emotions exemplified by Greek and Roman classical myths, dramas, and poetry. A theatre composer to his very bones, he devoted himself to the portrayal of human psychology. He had a special interest in those moments when the human psyche is at its most vulnerable: moments of indecision, struggle, despair, fury, abandonment, betrayal, unhappy love, conflict with friends, enemies, and fate, or longing for the oblivion of death.
The oboe was an instrument especially beloved by Händel. It is the unifying element in the anthology of arias and cantatas recorded here.
Bart Schneemann: Handel, that master creator of goosebumps, can juggle emotions with the greatest of ease; he can make you happy, melancholy, resigned, exuberant. A composer who can make two completely different beings, an oboe and a soprano, fall in love, is one of the great ones.
Johannette Zomer: After my first collaboration with Bart (Blake Songs by Vaughan Williams, ccs 18598 ), what struck me was the way our two instruments, oboe and voice, completely fused together. Bart’s way of making music is so pure, so honest, that making music with him in these dialogue-arias raises my singing to a whole new level.
“It is refreshing to hear Zomer's less 'operatic' voice, with plenty of early music expertise, tackling arias with emotional affinity and stylish eloquence. Schneemann's oboe-playing is an ideally lyrical partner in Berenice's showpiece...Zomer's recital offers plenty to enjoy.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2010
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