Alan Curtis has here chosen to bring to life some of the more memorable duets of Handel's many operas. Quite apart from chewing over some of the more well-known operas he has chosen some duets from Silla, Sosarme (Per le porte del tormento), Faramondo, Atalanta, Poro and Muzio Scevola, few of which have had decent recordings in the last number of years.
His band is small, one player per part, withe the resultant effect rather to make the duets seems like chamber music. There is a danger in that with duets such as Io t'abbraccio (end of Act 2 Rodelinda) taken out of context that the dramatic moment of the music would be lost. However, by arranging the duets in a sequence (as Curtis writes in the notes) from love's joy through self-doubt and jealousy, back to undying love, the duets out of context sound superb.
Both singers, Patrizia Ciofi (Soprano) and Joyce di Donato (Mezzo) sound thoroughly at home in the idiom of baroque opera, and in fact their cadenzas and ornamentation are delightfully understated, rather than the sort of shrieking 'I can go higher still' of some more lauded performers. I look forward to Curtis' forthcoming recordings of Lotario, Rodelinda and Radamisto, if these performers are to be retained.
In short this is a delightful enterprise showing the genious of Handel in dealing with the most basic of human emotions - love and jealousy. Well done Alan Curtis!