Handel: Alessandro, HWV21

This page lists all recordings of Alessandro, HWV21, by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC).

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Handel: Alessandro, HWV21

Handel: Alessandro, HWV21


Handel’s ninth major opera for London, Alessandro was written as a showcase for the “Rival Queens”, the two famous Italian sopranos – Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni – whose supposed enmity, both personal and professional, not only generated good publicity for Handel’s latest opera but also added extra dramatic frisson to the two divas’ jealous clashes on stage.

Still something of a rarity even in this heyday of the Handel revival, Alessandro has only ever been recorded twice before over the past 30 years, and never previously with such a starry trio of singers in the three lead roles.

Marking the start of an exciting new partnership with the sensational Croatian counter-tenor Max Emanuel Cencic (and his company Parnassus Arts) that will involve both solo and ensemble recordings, this new recording stars Cenèiæ himself as Alexander the Great (a role originally sung by the legendary castrato Senesino), with acclaimed French Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin as the Scythian princess Lisaura, and the sensational young Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva – making her debut appearance as Decca’s latest exciting solo signing – in the role of Roxana, the Persian princess who finally wins the conqueror’s heart.

Recorded at the Megaron concert hall in Athens, this new recording of Handel’s classical epic features the period instruments of Armonia Atenea conducted by George Petrou, the brilliant young Baroque specialist whose previous recordings of Handel operas (Oreste, Arianna in Creta, Tamerlano, Giulio Cesare and the pasticcio Alessandro Severo) have won numerous international awards.

“These discs should come with an asbestos slipcase, so incendiary is the performance they convey...Cencic is imperious hot-bloodedness personified...perhaps best of all is Karina Gauvin's utterly disarming Lisaura, her coloratura dazzling, her bright soprano full of personality...Just as thrilling is the visceral playing...Pert and incisive, the overture crackles with energy...A revelation.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012 *****

“Petrou offers panache and fizzy unpredictablity...[Cencic] is clearly not going to play second fiddle to his rival queens...This is an essential purchase just for the infectiously joyful performance of Rossane's 'Brilla nell'alma'...Armonia Atenea's playing is refreshingly free from formulaic complacency.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

BBC Music Magazine

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Early Music

Decca - 4784699

(CD - 3 discs)

Normally: $28.75

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Handel: Alessandro, HWV21

Handel: Alessandro, HWV21


Lawrence Zazzo (Alessandro), Yetzabel Arias Fernández (Rossane), Raffaella Milanesi (Lisaura), Martin Oro (Tassile), Andrew Finden (Clito), Sebastian Kohlhepp (Leonato) & Rebecca Raffell (Cleone)

Deutsche Händel-Solisten, Michael Form

Handel’s opera 'Alessandro', first performed at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket in London on 5 May 1726, was one of the composer’s most successful works for the stage. This opera displays Handel at the pinnacle of his career and enjoyed repeated performances over a period of several years.

However, in modern times, 'Alessandro' has remained one of Handel’s least performed operas. Alexander’s heroic exploits only provide a background to the amorous dalliances, in which the eponymous hero cuts a pretty poor figure. Admittedly, the singer of the role is faced with eight arias in which he is forced to perform the most heroic deeds: the castrato Senesino was at this time the undisputed star of Handel’s operatic enterprise - a hard act to follow. There are, however, further aspects to explain this neglect. Faustina Bordoni gave her first ever, long-anticipated performance in London in the première of 'Alessandro'. She rapidly became Handel’s regular diva, Francesca Cuzzoni’s rival. The two singers were already familiar with each other from their time in Italy, where they had shared numerous operatic stages, but Handel, who was under permanent threat of bankruptcy, used the rivalry between the two singers in an ingenious advertising campaign. The cat-fight between the divas was substantially hyped up in the press as each singer attempted to outdo the other in progressively more dazzling ornamentation. This explains why 'Alessandro' is so seldom performed. Basically, this work demands the three best singers in the world. Once these exceptional talents have been assembled, the opera is transformed into a string of the most beautiful pearls, strung perhaps on a slightly shallow plot, which however retains a certain charm.

The present live recording, from the 2012 Handel Festival in Karlsruhe, can be viewed as a pioneering achievement and is only the second ever complete performance of Handel's 'Alessandro' since the recording by Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande in the mid-1980s.

With an outstanding cast: Lawrence Zazzo in the title role, Yetzabel Arias Fernández, Raffaella Milanesi and Martin Oro, the opera was the highlight of the Handel Festival, which was cheered equally by both the audience and the critics.

“[Zazzo's] handling of the title-role, though sometimes underpowered, is expressive and technically secure...Fernandez is undoubtedly the star of the show. Her arias...are delivered with virtuosity.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2012 ***

“from the first bars of the Overture it is obvious that the capable resident Baroque orchestra are no slouches: their accomplished strings often convey graceful shading...[Zazzo's] articulation of phrases is ideal for the abundance of lilting love arias; Raffaella Milanesi's sultry Lisaura is suitably distinct in timbre and personality from Yetzabel Arias Fernandez's dignified Rossane” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

Early Music

Pan Classics - PC10273

(CD - 3 discs)

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Handel: Alessandro, HWV21

Handel: Alessandro, HWV21


Rene Jacobs (Alessandro), Sophie Boulin (Rossane), Isabelle Poulenard (Lisaura), Stephen Varcoe (Clito), Jean Nirouët (Tassile), Guy de Mey (Leonato), Ria Bollen (Cleone)

La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken

CD includes a booklet with a three-language synopsis (English/French/German), full cast list and detailed track list.

Deutsche HM - The Sony Opera House - 88697856552

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