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Handel: Alcina Live

4 customer reviews

Price: £26.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Performer: Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Natalie Dessay, Kathleen Kuhlmann, Laurent Naouri, et al.
  • Orchestra: Les Arts Florissants
  • Conductor: William Christie
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (21 Feb. 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Erato
  • ASIN: B00004NK26
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,219 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Alcina : Sinfonia
2. Alcina : Menuet
3. Alcina : Musette
4. Alcina : Act 1 "Oh Dei! quivi non scorgo alcun sentiero!" [Bradamante, Melisso, Morgana]
5. Alcina : Act 1 "O s'apre al riso" [Morgana]
6. Alcina : Act 1 "Questo e il cielo de' contenti" [Chorus]
See all 22 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Alcina : Act 2 "Col celarvi a chi v'ama" [Ruggiero] "Taci, taci, codardo" [Melisso, Ruggiero]
2. Alcina : Act 2 "Qual portento mi richiama" [Ruggiero]
3. Alcina : Act 2 "Ah! Bradamante!" [Ruggiero, Melisso]
4. Alcina : Act 2 "Pensa a chi geme d'amor piagata" [Melisso]
5. Alcina : Act 2 "Qual odio ingiusto contro me?" [Bradamante, Ruggiero]
6. Alcina : Act 2 "Vorrei vendicarmi" [Bradamante]
See all 22 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Alcina : Act 3 Sinfonia
2. Alcina : Act 3 "Voglio amar e disamar" [Oronte, Morgana]
3. Alcina : Act 3 "Credete al mio dolore" [Morgana]
4. Alcina : Act 3 "M'inganna, me n'avveggo" [Oronte]
5. Alcina : Act 3 "Un momento di contento" [Oronte]
6. Alcina : Act 3 "Molestissimo incontro!" [Ruggiero, Alcina]
See all 22 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

Here it is: one of the year's most hotly anticipated opera recordings, made during an acclaimed live production in June 1999 at the Paris Opera, which more than lives up to the promise. Whether Handelian opera is still a novelty or you're already a rabid convert, this emotionally resonant, crisply played, superbly cast interpretation under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is likely to shake up some of your ideas about the composer.

On the surface, Alcina's Ariosto-based story about a sorceress whose spell is finally broken seems like the typically absurd fare of baroque opera. But as the story unfolds in an incredible succession of some 28 arias, it's clear that these performers are reaching for deeper profundities present in Handel's music. Renée Fleming makes Alcina's huge Act II aria "Ah! mio cor" a central epiphany and turning point of the opera. It defies belief that this is Susan Graham's first baroque opera, so rich is her variety of invention and deep her musicality as Ruggiero, the one to break free of Alcina's spell, while the spun-silk soprano of Nathalie Dessay adds yet another colour to the multitude of female voices that dominate here. --Thomas May

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Moore TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Jan. 2012
Format: Audio CD
I own two superficially very different recordings of this lovely opera and thought it might be helpful to compare them, as both star the reigning Handel diva of their day. It was this role which introduced many to "La Stupenda" and Renee Fleming has made of point of keeping Handel in the forefront of her repertoire despite her forays into verismo.

To label the 1962 Decca recording "grossly inauthentic" is a bit rich; people who dismiss it on the grounds of being old-fashioned remind me of those who claim sex was invented in the 1960's. Obviously there a few cuts and there is little HIP practice - how could there be? - but the spirit is right and it is blessed with an array of stellar voices accompanied most sensitively and intelligently by Bonynge directing a gorgeous-sounding LSO. Nonetheless, Christie's 1999 live account at the Paris Opera for Erato was also a great occasion and offers a complete, wholly satisfying, historically informed performance by the best Handel singers to be found at that time. The playing of Les Arts Florissants avoids period scratchiness and is in fact very elegant. The interesting thing about Christie's direction is that he confounds those who expect a period performance to be all Tiggerish bounce; he permits some daringly leisurely tempi to accommodate the creamy effulgence and emotive indulgence of Fleming's Alcina. This brings the two recordings, separated by nearly forty years, closer together in style than you might have thought.

I love both and wouldn't be without either - although I admit to succumbing more readily to the vocal glamour of the older cast than to the more sprightly delivery of Christie's performance.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Iain C. Davidson on 12 Dec. 2008
Format: Audio CD
Despite the period instruments of Les Arts Florrisants, Christie's recording of 'Alcina' has an oddly old fashioned feel about it. I think this is largely down to the casting. Seldom these days do we find a singer like Renee Fleming in a Handel opera recording. Her thick, rich and creamy tones will not be to everyone's taste and I'm not sure that they are to my own! Generally speaking I love Fleming's voice but not here. She has some good moments but much of it is just too drawn out, self indulgent and wallowing in the beauty of her own sound. I also failed to be overly impressed with Susan Graham as Ruggiero. Graham's is a voice I can't seem to get excited about; there's nothing wrong with it - I just don't see what all the fuss is about, there are better Handelian mezzo sopranos out there.

The rest of the cast is generally fine. Natalie Dessay is caught before she started to become prone to self indulgence herself - her opening aria is just lovely! Kathleen Kuhlmann is a good, firm Bradamante, Laurent Naouri is a sonorous Melisso and Juanita Lascarro provides some of the best singing in the small role of Oberto. Timothy Robinson is OK as Oronte but there are better Handel tenors.

Stage noises do sometimes interfere but I didn't find it too damaging. The orchestra play delightfully but I find Christie inclined to drag things out too much sometimes. In short this is a decent recording. Other recordings of 'Alcina' have their own shortcomings and there is definitely room for new versions.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Mar. 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is a recording that grows on you more and more every time you listen to it; I've been with mine now for three weeks and I have to say, I find it the most satisfying, calming, and uplifting Handel recording I have ever heard. Christie takes things slowly, heart-stoppingly slowly at times, but it works really well. Flemming responds to the tempo perfectly: just listen to her "Ah! Mio Cor" on Disk 2 (all 12 minutes of it)- this is moving stuff. Dessay's remarkable coleratura is without doubt the star of the show, and her "Tornami a vagheggiar" which closes Act I was as much a hit with me as it clearly was with the live audience. The orchestra of Les Arts Florissants play with their customary dedication and elegance. I have no hesitation in recommending this wonderful (and most complete) recording of this remarkable work. Buy it!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 April 2001
Format: Audio CD
What a wonderful recording! Having listened to a few, I would definately say this is the best. Fleming and Graham alone make this a recording worth having and the generous musicality both from the performers and orchestra makes you wish you had been there. Buy it and you won't regret it. Enjoy!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 37 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Memorable night at the Palais Garnier 25 April 2000
By J. Luis Juarez Echenique - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
After giving us choice recordings of Handel' s Messiah, Orlando and Acis and Galatea, William Christie now turns his attention to Alcina, one of Handel's very best operas. For this great occasion he got some of the most famous divas of our time and it pays off handsomely. It really doesn't matter if Renee Fleming sounds more like a Strauss soprano, her ravishing voice is equally seductive in Handel, and she does give a great performance in the title role. Susan Graham is almost as good, even if she can't compare (no one can) with the young Teresa Berganza in the old Bonynge recording. Natalie Dessay sparks fireworks in her sensational coloratura aria "Tornami a vagheggiar" at the end of Act I. It seems she got the biggest applause of the evening. But it is the exquisite playing of Les Arts Florissants which deserves the highest praise. This is certainly one of the greatest opera recordings of the year.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Stars shine in Handelian Firmament 24 Jun. 2000
By Ed Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This recording was always going to be a bestseller - the unfeasibly starry casting would see to that - and it really lives up to its billing. Alcina has wonderful arias in spades but it takes real musical imagination to bring them to life as William Christie and his soloists do here. Yes, he pushes the ritenuti to the limit, and yes, the ornamentation occasionaly lapses beyond the strictly tasteful. But how well the performance captures the themes of the opera: the brittle decadence of Alcina's court - and the misery and loneliness at the centre of it all. The frisson of a live performance adds to the excitement - and I am sure the applause went on for much longer than it did here. The orchestral sound is agreeably robust but bright and accurate. There are some smashing obbligati. The cast is, rightly, dominated by the eponymous sorceress. Renee Fleming thwarts all those who question her ability as a Handel singer (and there are enough of them) by bringing her rich, bright soprano, her flawless dynamic control, her deeply satisfying musicality and an edge of bravura to her music. Bravura is not the word for Natalie Dessay's dazzling Morgana, agreeably plush of tone, really thoughfully characterised and - of course - breathtakingly saucy in altissimo. Susan Graham sings gloriously too (with some occasional tuning problems) but perhaps her Ruggiero could go further in terms of character - Alcina is not the only one soul-searching in this piece. As for the rest, only praise, especially for Kathleen Kuhlmann's artless execution of her florid music and Juanita Lascarro's characterful Oberto. So - well worth having - unless you are the kind of handel lover who can't bear non-authentic Handelian singers. It's an intoxicating record of some memorable music theatre and a real treat.
40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
A recording to cherish 14 May 2000
By Michael K. Halloran - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The operas of Handel are surely an acquired taste, the opera seria format seeming stiff and contrived to modern listeners. But if you develop an apetite for them, you may just find yourself becoming addicted. This new recording of "Alcina" could be just the ticket to start newcomers on the road toward falling in love with Handelian opera.
This is not the first complete recording of "Alcina." Two others, with Joan Sutherland and Arleen Auger in the title role, exist but are currently unavailable in the United States. However, this recording excels in making the characters human, the situations moving and valid, and the emotions palpable.
The first glory of the set is undoubtedly the singing of Renee Fleming in the title role. Her voice improves on her recorded predecessors by not only being exceptionally beautiful but irresistably sensuous as well. Her singing of Handel is a revelation, when her first aria is launched with a voice of fullness, warmth and creamy tone. This is no standard "period" soprano a la Emma Kirkby, but a real woman: Fleming believes in this character and her emotions, and makes her sympathetic to us. Her complete dramatic involvement make Alcina a living, breathing being, rather than a posturing cardboard nightingale.
Susan Graham is equally effective as Ruggiero, her voice as warm and beautiful as Fleming's. She may lack the full dramatic commitment to the character that Fleming has, but then Ruggiero is not as developed as Alcina. She does, however, contribute an exquisitely shaded and nuanced version of "Verdi prati."
Natalie Dessay's frequent excursions into the altissimo range may bother some purists (she caps "Tornami a vagheggiar" with a high F), but for my money her embellishments are right on for the flighty character of Morgana. Her voice remains sweet, clear, and slightly reedy, contrasting well with the other sopranos in the cast.
The rest of the cast is good, if without the degree of commitment and polish exhibited by the three leading ladies. Kathleen Kuhlmann repeats her Bradamante from the Auger set, sounding firm if rather unyielding in tone and with aspirated coloratura. Juanita Lascarro is light and pure as the child Oberto, although it would have been nice to have a boy soprano sing the part, as it was done in Handel's time. The men are also good, if unexceptionable. The chorus sings well but is difficult to understand.
William Christie shapes the performance beautifully; this may be his best work to date. Les Arts Florissants plays with energy and crisp ensemble, embellishing the da capos right along with the singers.
For those wary of live recordings, fear not. A few odd sonic balances aside, the sound is excellent, arias better than the recitatives. Applause comes at the end of each act, so the flow remains uniterrupted within the piece.
I wouldn't want to be without the two earlier recordings of "Alcina," but for an experience that makes the work vital and exciting, as well as a near-perfect reading of the title role by Renee Fleming, give this set a try.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Peerless 2 Feb. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
First, in response to the reviewer below, this production _was_ done in the States: I saw it at the otherwise staid Lyric Opera of Chicago. I think it was done elsewhere, too.
Also, accepting that emotional response varies with every listener, I don't quite see how someone couldn't be incredibly moved by moments in this performance. First and foremost would be Fleming's 12-minute aria in act II, which has to be one of the most sublime da capo aria performances on record. Christie's tempi here are perfect to boot, and the orchestral sound that wonderful mix of suavity and clarity which Les Arts Florissants virtually owns in the early music business.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Astonishing! 11 May 2000
By "opernnarr" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Ths recording derives from a highly acclaimed production at the Paris Opera in 1999 (later traveling, with some cast changes, to Chicago). It is one of the most exciting recordings of a Handel opera I have ever heard--I can't stop playing it! Christie provides his trademark crisp, elegantly sculpted orchestral lines and carefully modulated tempi. His direction emphasizes the music's sensuality in a way atypical of recent baroque opera recordings, but it strikes me as completely appropriate. Dessay sings with stunning coloratura skill, reaching the stratosphere in fast passages with ease. "Tornami a vagheggiar" brings down the house, but elsewhere ("Credete al mio dolore") I could have used a smoother, better supported sound. Graham emphasizes the Hamlet-like aspects of Ruggiero's character, making him more introspective and more of a poet than did Jennifer Larmore in Chicago. It's a interesting characterization and she sings with that aristocratic, cool, slender tone that have made her famous. About Fleming I cannot muster up enough praise. On purely vocal terms her singing is outstanding: she uses a distinctively rich palette of colors, has perfect projection and support, her high notes are glorious and her coloratura superb right up to a high E-flat. But what I find so impressive is how she uses these talents to create a complex, moving psychological portrait of a woman obsessed with desire. It's breathtaking--her Alcina will move you to tears. Many have claimed that Fleming was born to sing Strauss, but I wonder if she were not destined instead for Handel. Not to be missed!
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