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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy cuts and stage noise limit value, 6 Oct 2012
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C. Wake (West Country) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Alessandro (Audio CD)
It looks like a choice between this recording and the new Decca, and so between Zazzo and Cencic. I tend to favour Zazzo, but Petrou's women, Julia Lezhneva and Karina Gauvin, are much superior vocally: and what tips the choice to Petrou is that this version is heavily cut (not just bits of recit, but major arias, notably Alessandro's at the end of Act 1 and the final double-duet Handel wrote for Senesino, Cuzzoni and Bordoni), where Petrou is complete; four arias have been clumsily reorchestrated (and in one case re-composed) to suit the wind-players in the band; and the stage thumping and giggling during arias is very tiresome. A shame - and a pity that both recordings appear simultaneously.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander as "comic superhero", 5 Oct 2012
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E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Alessandro (Audio CD)
It seems altogether odd that there haven't been that many recordings of Alessandro knocking about (and now two come along at once - this present one, recorded live, and Alessandro by director George Petrou with Max Emanuel Cencic). After all it's not as if it was one of Handel's less successful operas; its 1726 premiere season ran for thirteen performances (there would have been more if the superstar castrato Senesino in the title role had not fallen ill) and there were revivals in 1728 and 1732, as well as adaptations in Germany in 1726 and 1728, and in even further modified form music from Alessandro went under the title Rossane in London in the 1743-44 and 1747-48 seasons.

Moreover the work saw Handel bring in a much anticipated second superstar soprano Faustina Bordoni to join Francesca Cuzzoni, the two playing rivals for Alexander's love. Indeed the rivalry between the two went well beyond the stage and fuelled the gossip rags of the day; all to Handel's benefit of course - there was no such thing as bad publicity even back then. It is recorded that during a performance of Bononcini's "Astianatte" in June 1727 the two came to blows and hair pulling, the performance ending in a near riot and the entire opera season forced to come to a premature close as a result.

The presence of three superstar performers required the very best from Handel when it came to composing virtuoso arias; indeed the notes to this recording would have it that the reason there have been so few modern productions as being that it requires "the three best singers in the world". But does such a grandiose claim for this particular recording stand up to scrutiny?

Well, in a word, no. In a straight fight between Larry Zazzo here and Max Emanuel Cencic on the Petrou production, Cencic wins hands down. Yetzebel Arias Fernández and Raffaella Milanesi as the two women competing for Alessandro's affections stand better comparison with Petrou, though still neither feel quite as good as their counterparts on that other release, Julia Lezhneva (Rossane) and Karina Gauvin (Lisauria) respectively.

It does not help that the recording quality is not that great. The vocalists are captured slightly feebly (and I would have mentioned lack of clear enunciation from the singers who do not lack experience in Italian Baroque repertoire, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to the recording) and quality can waver noticeably as the performers move about the stage, although the orchestral sound is good enough. And on top of that, there is waaaaay too much acquisition of stage noise at times for my liking, plus some mid-act audience applause too.

My advice - unless you wish to hear multiple productions, head straight for the Petrou version instead of this.

The three discs come in a foldout digipak with booklet with some notes & synopsis (English, German, French), plus well presented libretto with English & German translations.
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Handel: Alessandro
Handel: Alessandro by Lawrence Zazzo (Audio CD - 2012)
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