Handel Edition (Alcina / Orlando) Box set, Original recording reissued
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‘The performance shows the typical Christie touch: polished and sweet-toned playing, well-judged balance, care for detail.
There have been some magnificent Alcina’s in the past…Renee Fleming is in the same class…There are others to match. Susan Graham, in the primo uomo role of Ruggiero, has some of the opera's finest music, and brings to it a firm, full mezzo, clear and agile.
Natalie Dessay brings her full and warm soprano to Morgana's music, with plenty of spirit, a touch of the coquettish where called for, and beautifully exact placing of the staccato notes in 'Tornami a vagheggiar'. Her ornamentation sometimes takes her to dizzying heights.
…the opera is done with the spirit and the passion that its superb music calls for and I have no hesitation in recommending this set…’ (Gramophone)
‘Alcina is among the finest of Handels operas. The fine Erato set was recorded live at the Paris Opera.
Christie too is masterly at avoiding any monotony in the long sequence of da capo arias, with the recitative superbly timed and reprises beautifully decorated. It is striking that the star singers here are not just brilliant in tackling elaborate passage-work and ornamentation, but are stylishly scrupulous in avoiding unwanted aspirates. Renée Fleming is in glorious voice as Alcina… Natalie dessay as Alcina’s sister, Morgana, relishes the challenge…’ (Penguin Guide 3 stars, 2008 edition)
Top Customer Reviews
Alcina is a live performance, and the recording quality is not of a particularly high standard. Vocal intensity and clarity comes and goes like the tides on the shore as performers move about or turn away. It's difficult to pass sensible comment on the individual performances. It seems inexcusable to present us with this kind of substandard recording when we know it is perfectly possible to give us live performances of virtually studio standard. Take for example Vivaldi: Il Giustino which is part studio part live, and for me at least it's not possible to work out which parts were recorded in which environment.
Orlando is a studio recording, and needless to say the standard is much superior. William Christie delivers to his usual high standard here.
Three stars (just) for Alcina, five for Orlando, so average four stars.
Presented as six discs in individual card sleeves within a cardboard box with fold open lid, plus booklet. No libretti included, you have to download those from the interweb at the address given.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Alcina offers two major stars, Renee Fleming in the title role, and Natalie Dessay as Morgana, with lovely performances by the supporting cast: Kathleen Kuhlmann as Bradamante, Susan Graham as Ruggiero, Juanita Lascarro as Oberto, tenor Timothy Robinson as Oronte, and bass Laurent Naouri as Melisso. Fleming brings a big-house diva approach to the role of Alcina, which may be off-putting to those preferring purity of baroque style, but which more than once pays dramatic dividends. Dessay is utterly dazzling, combining her personal creativity and sheer vocal brilliance in a performance that often had me giggling with delight.
Patricia Bardon’s performance of the title role in Orlando starts shakily--her technique is challenged by the faster arias early in the work—but she rises to the challenge of the two great mad scenes. Rosemary Joshua as Angelica, and Rosa Mannion as Dorinda contribute beautiful singing in aria after aria, and Hilary Summers is a capable Medoro. Bass Harry van der Kamp as Zoroastro is up to the challenge as the mage who oversees Orlando’s therapeutic passage from dangerous infatuation into madness and back at last to sanity.
Christie tends to take slow arias more slowly than his competitors, emphasizing their beauty at the risk of letting the drama lag, but he tends to make up for lost time in recitatives and fast arias. There’s no such thing as a definitive version of these operas, and the experienced Handel collector will want to supplement these recordings with other fine approaches, but this it’s hard to justify passing up this low-cost opportunity to explore the interpretations of a major Handel conductor.
Alcina is a live recording so it sounds occasionally like the microphones were positioned far away from the singers as they move around the stage but it is still possible to hear Natalie Dessay's amazing bright vocal fireworks and Renee Fleming's creamy tones. Susanne Graham also does beautifully as Ruggerio. The beauty of Handel's music still shines through the uneven live recording and this is well worth purchasing. A great price for two Handel operas in one package.