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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 ****
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“...an exhilarating roller-coaster of a recital from a charismatic singing-actress.” The Telegraph, 7th November 2008
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Ombra mai fú
Airs, Overtures & Concerti
A stunning recital disc which helped establish Scholl as the first countertenor superstar. The sound is outstanding, the voice perfectly balanced, the orchestral sonorities richly detailed and displaying an impressive tonal depth. In short, the complete artist and the ideal recording.
“Scholl at his inimitable best: superbly accomplished and fully inside each character in turn.” BBC Music Magazine
“Scholl is pre-eminent among today's countertenors for the fine quality, roundness and power of his voice as well as for the artistry of its usage. In this new recital, the sheer opulence of tone impresses afresh, and its firmness make the more dramatic vibrancy of Daniel's seem somewhat loosely focused... the recitative in Admento shudders with the hopelessness of 'omai tornate', and, in the solo from Rodelinda, Bertardio confronts his own epitaph with convincing emotion.” Gramophone Magazine
“The highlights are the Serse, Alcina and Cesare arias: Handel doesn't come lovelier than this.” Sunday Times
“Here is another guaranteed hit for this justifiably acclaimed German countertenor.” The Observer
“Handel recitals do not come much better than this... Glorious music, superlative singing.” The Telegraph
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Handel - Sacred & Secular
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