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on 23 April 2012
Mr Rogers is quite right when he says Contralto Sonia Prina is Superb...

Alan Curtis choosed once again the cast very carefully, the great Sonia Prina was vocally spectacular and immensely moving in the title role, a Royal warm timbre with an unmatched vocal coloratura, Prina's dark and strongly focussed tone, the perfect diction, agility and precision is well-suited to this military hero.

Ann Hallenberg always singing with great musicianship and expressiveness.

Topi Lehtipuu adds superb musicality and emotional intensity in a demanding role.

Cencic was quite a surprise for me, not the biggest fan of his style.

The Soloist who in my opinion disappoints is Mayuko Karasawa ( kermes was unavailable ? Invernizzi ? Piau ? Cangemi ? ) it's a minor role but the problems of intonation were just too obvious.

Curtis and Prina a partnership for many years !
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on 18 October 2011
This is an attractively packaged nice performance of an early Gluck opera, much less tedious than early Mozart operas and certainly well worth getting to know. The cast, featuring many of the now 'usual suspects' from Alan Curtis Handel opera recordings, is mostly excellent if you can deal with the sour edged singing of contralto Sonia Prina in the role of Ezio. Certainly she has an 'interesting' voice but, to my ear, she produces some appallingly squalid sounds that leave me cringing every time. Quite honestly she must have one of the ugliest sounding voices I have ever heard (and I don't say that lightly). Note to Mr Curtis: Please don't let her sing in any more of these operas! Still, the set is well worth having for Ann Hallenberg and Topi Lehtiphuu alone, both of whom do not disappoint with their singing, even if Lehtipuu sounds far too beautiful to be convincing as a villain - you just cant help falling in love with his Mozartian-style singing.

Alan Curtis provides well controlled energetic accompaniments even if the voices, as recorded here, are a little too forward in relation to the orchestra. This, together with the aforementioned cast offender, would be my reasons for withholding a fifth star. But generally the reasons for acquiring it far outweigh its drawbacks especially at this price. Indeed, each of the arias is musically substantial enough to stand as a set piece in its own right and I fail to see why this opera has suffered such neglect. This being a Metastasio libretto, one can make direct comparisons with the same text settings Mozart used in two of his arias, namely 'Va, dal furor portata' and 'Misera, dove son... Ah! non son io che parlo'. The comparison is fascinating for what it says about how each approached the text and finds Gluck none the worse for it, just a different dramatic emphasis.

Historically Gluck has suffered a lot of 'bad press' and we need to remind ourselves that the same was true of Handel until recent times. Operas like this certainly show just how unfair that judgement has been. Now if only record companies would give us more of this type of music instead of flooding the market ad nauseum with mediocre performances of well known Mozart operas!
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Christoph Willibald Gluck's name is indelibly associated with his much vaunted "operatic reforms". Personally I'm someone whose operatic taste, chronologically speaking, doesn't extend beyond Handel. But seeing as this is one of Gluck's pre-reform works and it's by Curtis, I thought I would give it a go.

Ezio is based around the historical characters of Aetius (Ezio), the 5th century general who stopped Attila's advance, and the emperor Valentinian III (Valentiniano), and actual intrigues involving these and the senator Maximus (Massimo). The chronology of events in the opera is however somewhat confused compared to the reality, and, ironically for a plot which revolves around Ezio's steadfast loyalty to Valentiniano in the face of being falsely implicated in a plot to kill the emperor, ignores the fact that Aetius in fact died by Valentinian III's own hand!

Gluck took the same Metastasio libretto as did Handel for his Ezio of 1732. Handel had cut down the libretto significantly, and the notes to that recording suggest that the slightly confusing result led to that work's lack of popularity with opera-goers. This shorter Gluck work for me is wanting, both musically and dramatically, when set aside a Handel or a Vivaldi.

It's rescued in this recording somewhat however by the cast, including dependable and solid performers contralto Sonia Prina (Ezio), mezzo Ann Hallenberg (Fulvia, daughter of Massimo), tenor Topi Lehtipuu (Massimo) and then of course the gorgeously voiced countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic as Valentiniano.

The two discs come packaged in cardboard sleeves, in a hinged cardboard box with booklet provided notes, synopsis, libretto and translation (English, French, German).
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