THE SINGING IS PERFECTION; RIAL AND ZAZZO ARE A DYNAMIC DUO!
Johann Mattheson, with whom the 19 yr. old Handel fought a duel-as opposed to a duet-outside the Theater Gansemarkt in Hamburg in 1704, defined the duet as follows in his manual 'Der volkommene Capelmeister of 1739': "Although the duet is also an aria, it is of a very different stamp from the solos, for in addition to an attractive melody it also seeks to be either fugal or concertante, with original harmonies. For this, art and hard work are necessary."
The duets featured in the present release demonstrate two different aspects of the medium: on the one hand, they reveal the variety of musical effects or emotions that may be presented, from a musical confession of love and other intimacies to a feint designed to pull the wool over a rival's eyes and finally a marital squabble; and at the same time they reflect the different ways in which duets may be used within the course of an opera.
There are in all on this disc: eight duets; in addition each singer has two solos. The seven operas from which the selections are extracted are: 'Poro', 'Serse', 'Admeto', 'Muzio Scevola', 'Rodellinda', 'Arminio' and 'Teseo'.
The two singers on this recording are outstanding in this genre. Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo is one of today's most experienced and tuneful singers. His tone is very masculine, rich and full-bodied, resonant and exciting to hear, for his sense of drama is truly superior to many opera notables. Nuria Rial, although very young with less experience than Zazzo, has a mature sounding voice that soars effortlessly into the high zone with a truly lovely sound. I felt that she sang with much more emotion in the duets, partly because Zazzo has so much to offer in that area, and it 'rubbed' off. (Just a personal feeling!) No real complaints about either one of them.
However, I was somewhat disappointed at many of the choices made on this disc (don't know who makes them). However, when one is dealing with a compilation recording, it would be most unusual to be equally fond of all the selections, but in this case the singing is so good(and after all it IS Handel) so it remains for me an enjoyable listen!
OK this is all personal reaction, but after listening to this disc, I had to play some 'Tamerlano' and 'Agrippina' and I couldn't help but desire to hear Rial and Zazzo sing some of those truly exciting and lovely Handelian melodies with which I am familiar. But no doubt whoever did determine this selection probably chose this specific music for the reason of acquainting the listener with unfamiliar selections, and I must confess that repeated listening, especially in the case of Handel, will not only acquaint but endear.
May I say that as a reviewer, if I could rate this recording again I would give it five stars, for I should not have let my personal response to the selections influence the overall rating, but it has made me much more careful in subsequent assessments.
All things being equal, it's a great recording; let's give the voices 10 stars for they are truly excellent. The package comes with good liner notes and text in French, German and English.