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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate performance of Handel's Orlando, 15 Mar 2014
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Mr. Harry D. Locksley "Opera Lover" (Cornwall, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Orlando (Audio CD)
I read about this performance of Orlando in The Gramophone. It was given a really rapturous rating, so I listened to some of it using the MP3 excerpts (via Amazon) and The Gramophone's judgement was spot on!

The singers and orchestra are wonderful, so I went ahead and bought the CD version. I have not been disappointed. I can recommend this excellent performance unreservedly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective on "Orlando" that should interest Handelians, 24 Jun 2014
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C. Wake (West Country) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Orlando (Audio CD)
I ignored this recording of "Orlando" from the 2012 Vancouver Early Music Festival when it came out last year, because Karina Gauvin was the only performer's name I recognised, and it had a poor press: but I was quite wrong to do so. Having listened to it now with pleasure, I entirely agree with the positive comments made by other reviewers.

Alexander Weimann prefers slower speeds than are currently fashionable - no-one involved seems to have a train to catch - but has a strong sense of rhythm, particularly of dance rhythm, and he gives the opera a stately elegance which is convincing and very refreshing. This is particularly true of Orlando's famous "mad scene" at the end of the 2nd act. Instead of pouring on a sauce of modern frenzy, Weimann digs into Handel's parody of dance forms to give us a mannered, stagey instability which fits with everything we know of the vocal and acting technique of Senesino, who first sang the part.

Weimann's thoughtful musicality is attractive, and reinforced by generally excellent singing, particularly from the young British falsettist Owen Willetts. Willetts has the modesty to do what a falsettist can do well - sing quiet music elegantly, and enunciate clearly - and does not go in for fake-Castrato shrieking. He makes a pleasant noise - somewhere between James Bowman and Russell Oberlin - and is able to sing down to b flat below c' in falsetto, which means he can sing most of Senesino's music without gear changes (he refuses a prominent low a at one point, but later sings a g). Of course he does not have much power at the bottom of the stave, but this matters less for the microphone than for the stage. His very clear use of Italian contributes much to the performance elegance I mentioned previously.

The other outstanding singer is the US soprano Amanda Forsythe who sings Dorinda (the "second lady" in Orlando). She has listened carefully to Emma Kirkby's version and profited from it, but having a rather larger voice she has her own insights to offer. Handel wrote the part for a slightly mysterious singer called Celeste and must have thought well of her - she gets most of the best tunes. Karina Gauvin gets the less interesting "first lady" role of Angelica, and it suits the current state of her voice. She is rarely pressured at the top of the stave, and has little coloratura, and so is set free to do what she can still do well, that is, sing gracefully with a sweet tone. She also avoids high-flying da capo antics most of the time. Allyson McHardy, a young Canadian low mezzo, sings the "second man" Medoro cleanly and accurately, but could do with a bit more vocal energy to represent the young lover. Nathan Berg has a dark tone and vocal heft which is highly appropriate for Zoroastro, but unfortunately he lacks the mobility which the part also requires.

Weimann's originality does not run to liberating himself from current fashion in Handel orchestration. We get the standard tiny, bass-heavy band (4/4/2/2/2) and the usual unhistoric addition of guitar and organ to the continuo, but he uses this bass force so modestly that it does not irritate.

The Atma recording is not good. The venue is listed as a church, but what we hear sounds like a studio. Recitatives and arias go on in separate rooms, acoustically speaking, which makes for odd transitions when the two blend into each other, as they often do in "Orlando". The orchestra is balanced a long way back from the voices, so that quiet (but important) violin lines threaten to vanish. None of this was bad enough, however, to detract from my enjoyment.

I do not think this set can be a first recommendation - both the Hogwood and the Christie (CD version) are better in some ways - but I think that anyone already familiar with "Orlando" would find profit and pleasure in listening to it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of them all - even surpasses Hogwood's!!, 20 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Orlando (MP3 Download)
This Canadian group, now clearly for me, take the lead even ahead of Hogwood's classic recording and Christie's :-) Nathan Berg totally surpasses David Thomas and there's an airy quality about the whole performance and all the other soloists are very good too so it cannot be faulted in any way! I'm glad I gave this wonderful recording a try and now it's my favourite version. A+
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orlando Handel, 2 April 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Orlando (Audio CD)
This is my first Opera by Handel I am finding it must enjoyable on my first listing to it very good playing by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra the singing is very beautiful too by Owen Willetts Karina Gauvin Allyson McHardy Amanda Forsythia and Nathan Berg it is not too operatic too just right ( I will be buying some more of Handel Opera.s )
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