Customer Review

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better left on the shelf, 30 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Handel Giove in Argo (Audio CD)
This recording dates from 2010, since when Virgin have kept it on the shelf. I am afraid I think that it might have been better left there.

The piece itself is of very limited interest. It's a pasticcio-opera, a mash-up of existing music by Handel and another composer. A nymphs-and-shepherds piece, it's unusual only in being the only operatic work Handel ever assembled that does not use castratos, and in the number of choruses he put into it. One of these choruses, reused from the 1732 English/Italian version of Acis, is a real winner, but it is hardly worth buying "Giove in Argo" just for that.

What's more, this is not exactly a gripping performance. The singers are competent, but it is not fair of Curtis to ask Ann Hallenberg, an altoish mezzo, to sing a pure soprano role. She can't help sounding strained, especially in recitatives; and both she and Karina Gauvin are getting a bit long in the tooth to be playing nymphs. In one scene Jupiter (a rather dull Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani) tries to make love to both ladies at once, and both turn on him; here this sounds like a schoolboy getting told off by two elderly aunts.

The real trouble, however, is caused by Curtis's direction. It's never been dynamic and here sounds positively tired. We hear this from the very start. The first chorus is laboured and ragged; the second aria seems interminable. Hallenberg and Gauvin are experienced enough to go their own way, and so their arias give pleasure, but the rest of the cast get little chance to shine.

Strange to say, this is not the first recording of "Giove in Argo". There is a German set made after a production in Bayreuth in September 2006. The leads are less experienced than the Curtis team, and a student choir sings the choruses, which is probably anachronistic (Curtis uses his principals and a few supers) but the performance has a freshness and bounce lacking in this Virgin version, which for me stays resolutely flat on the page.

Handel completists will already have the other set; you, colleagues, I warn that the present set has nothing very striking to add to it, except an English translation (said to be based on the 1739 Wordbook).

If you are someone who just wants to try a Handel opera, don't start here. Try the recent Decca "Alessandro" or the 2007 "Riccardo Primo" from DHM; both have some dramatic life about them. And you record companies, why are you giving multiple recordings of a work as obscure as this, when at least one great Handel opera ("Poro") has no recording at all ?
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Mar 2013 09:08:55 BDT
There is a studio recording of Poro with Fabio Biondi, and a very good cast of singers, although the whole performance is not very good to be honest. The disc is very difficult to find now. I listened to some samples of Giove in Argo, and my initial thoughts are confirmed after reading your review.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Apr 2013 09:45:06 BDT
C. Wake says:
Quite right: there's also a Gottingen recording only available to subscribers, which is'nt much use either; but neither recording has been available for years.

Posted on 3 Apr 2013 22:08:49 BDT
Jeremy says:
Thanks for your review. It's a tolerable recording, but admittedly not one of Handel's best. The problem with Curtis, I consistently find, is that he always uses an orchestra considerably smaller than Handel wrote for. I believe this is one of the reasons why his strings always sound so scrawny.

Posted on 5 Aug 2014 04:17:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Nov 2014 09:17:47 GMT
Abert says:
An Altish mezzo-soprano? What about Jennifer Larmore? What about Magdalena Kozena? What about Joyce Didonato?
I wonder if you really are able to distinguish their timbres.
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Review Details



C. Wake

Location: West Country

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,208