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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Sosarme' by another name
'Fernando' is basically Handel's opera 'Sosarme' in a brief earlier incarnation. There seems to have been little point in Alan Curtis recording the opera under this name other than to market it under the banner of 'world premiere'. The music and plot are almost exactly the same with only the character names changing. Having said that, this is still a very good recording...
Published on 2 Dec. 2008 by Iain C. Davidson

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11 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity
Despite the presence of first rate singers Cangemi, Zazzo and Cencic in this recording, this is one of the most boring recordings of an opera I've heard to date. This must be ascribed to the unimaginative direction by Curtis, a cast otherwise containing competent to mediocre singers and an uninspired ensemble which sounds small and ineffective in the more dramatic...
Published on 22 Feb. 2007 by Webster Forrest


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Sosarme' by another name, 2 Dec. 2008
By 
Iain C. Davidson "iain1825" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Fernando, Re Di Castiglia (Audio CD)
'Fernando' is basically Handel's opera 'Sosarme' in a brief earlier incarnation. There seems to have been little point in Alan Curtis recording the opera under this name other than to market it under the banner of 'world premiere'. The music and plot are almost exactly the same with only the character names changing. Having said that, this is still a very good recording of the piece.

I have not heard the ancient Alfred Deller recording and can make no comparisons to that. I have however heard the Somary recording on Newport Classics and Curtis' reading of the piece is almost entirely superior to that. Curtis' cast is preferable to Somary's in most respects - two exceptions being the roles of Isabella/Erinice (sung very beautifully for Somary by Jennifer Lane) and Dionisio/Haliate (John Aler in much better voice for Somary that Fillipo Adamo's rough, nasal whine for Curtis. Lawrence Zazzo in the title role of Fernando is in excellent voice and brings considerable drama to the role. Veronica Cangemi is pretty good as Elvida (although to hear the ravishing 'Per la porte' duet sung really well you have to go to the duets disc with Joyce DiDonato and Patrizia Ciofi) and Max Cencic brings a warm, graceful tone to the part of Sancio. I find the basses in the two recordings quite equally matched; Abete has the fresher more agile voice but there is also something appealing about Nathaniel Watson's more sonorous tones for Somary.

I don't find Curtis' conducting boring - I think it springs along quite nicely although without that extra something that a conductor like Rene Jacobs sometimes brings to a piece (in fairness sometimes he brings too much!). I liked this recording overall and would recommend it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Diamond from Curtis & Co., 27 Feb. 2007
By 
Morten Fuglestad (Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Fernando, Re Di Castiglia (Audio CD)
It is not a surprise that Sosarme, Re di Media (which was the name this opera had it's premiere under in 1732) was a huge success. The plot of hostillity between a father and a son is timeless, but in 1732 the relations between King George II and Frideric, Prince of Wales, were ice cold, and was at the centre of gossip and politics in England. The public took interest in the subject and perhaps this issue also was a main inspiration for Handel in composing this opera and choosing this libretto, which probably had been gathering dust on Handel's shelves for about 25 years at this point.

It was probably the touchy relations with Portugal (an important allied to Britain) that made Handel switch the tittle from Fernando, Re di Castiglia to Sosarme, Re di Media, when he set about to compose Act III, and thus change the names of the characters. By this easy change of names Handel showed that the opera was not a commentary on political issues in Portugal, but rather on the theme of reconcilliation of a father and a son.

Charles Burney (a leading historian of music in second half of the 18th century) thought highly of this opera and deemed it one of Handel's best. The first aria (Handel' only aria in B-major) in the opera (I;1), beautifly sung by Veronica Cangemi (Elvida), is very moving and should be "canonised" into the main repetoire of sopranos. Also the duet "Per le porte del tormento" (II;8) is stunning, and Burney mentions this particullary as a true masterpiece. Here Elvida sings together with Fernando (Lawrence Zazzo), and this duet is perhaps worth the two CDs alone.

The tenor Filippo Adami (Dionisio, king of Portugal) has one of the most demanding parts in this opera. Adami is a good actor and infuses the role with a tremendous sense of energy. Antonio Abete's bass (Altomaro) is also full of life, which is remarkable, as Curtis' casting of the bass Vito Priante in Vivaldi's Montezuma was a real letdown. Abete has nouances in his voice that is ideal to his interpretation of the villain's part. Altomaro isn't Handel's most interesting psycological portrayal of a villain, but he certainly composed some impressive music to his famed bass Mantagnena for this opera, and Abete is perfect for this.

Fernando is sung by counter-tenor Lawrence Zazzo. His interpretations are not so tastefull as i.e. a Phillipe Jarousky (which I belive would be ideal in this part) surely would have sung it. However Zazzo has a real sense of drama and heroism in the war-like arias and is moving in the more sensual arias. The other counter-tenor part, Sancio (Fernando's half-brother), is sung by Max Emanuel Cencic. His part in the plot is quite important, and could, with a little rewriting of the libretto, have been the protagonist. Cencic's interpretation of Sancio's first aria "Si, si minacia" (I;6), where his over-genorous use of vibrato in order to portray vengance threatening to destroy the kingdom, seems to go dangeroulsy near the pathetic. In other arias he showes a more interesting use of his voice, and on the whole he is a good singer.

Curtis' conducting is dramatic and brings shades and light to the music without sacrificing poetry to drama. He is alert to the different rethorical modi which the arias calls upon and pushes the story forward with his deep sense of the drama's logical unity.

As Curtis' interpretation of Deidamia (Handel's last opera) showed, he is not at all suited to the humoristic modes in Handel. There are however no comic elements in Fernando, and this fullfledged seria opera is more in his vein.

The recording (2005) from Tonhalle, St. Gallen, is quite dry and renders the bass a little wooly. You will certainly not find the close microphone sound of many of todays baroque-orchestras, but if you like the sound (and approach to Handel) of Nicholas McGegan, this recording will certainly prove a very succesfull one.

It is also very nice to have Veronica Cangemi in such a splendid role where this rising star is given sufficient room to shine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Handel: Fernando, Re Di Castiglia (Audio CD)
This recording of Handel's Sosarme under its earlier pre production guise of 'Fernando' is very good indeed. How some reviewers can be so critical amazes me! I put off buying this set because of the negative reviews expressed here but was pleasantly surprised after listening to the Curtis recording. The speed and musical dynamics are just as they should be and the singing is sublime! Yes, I wish Curtis had recorded the revised libretto which turned Fernando into the opera Sosarme but that is a minor issue in reality. Indeed, Curtis has a reasonable justification for using the operas earlier draft and the music is identical anyway. Don't hesitate making a purchase!
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11 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 22 Feb. 2007
By 
Webster Forrest (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Fernando, Re Di Castiglia (Audio CD)
Despite the presence of first rate singers Cangemi, Zazzo and Cencic in this recording, this is one of the most boring recordings of an opera I've heard to date. This must be ascribed to the unimaginative direction by Curtis, a cast otherwise containing competent to mediocre singers and an uninspired ensemble which sounds small and ineffective in the more dramatic moments. The score is not remarkable when compared with "Alcina" or "Tamerlano", however it does contain many items of interest: 'Dite pace', 'Fra l'ombre', 'Cuor di madre' to name but a few. This recording is only worth the purchase as it attempts to recreate Handel's original intention of setting the drama in renaissance Portugal instead of the mythical antiquity of Sosarme, Re di Media. The much older recording with Alfred Deller as Sosarme should remain preferable overall, as it is more energetic and engaging than this present dull recording. What this project needed in my opinion was a Minkowkis or a Jacobs at the helm.
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