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Handel - Riccardo Primo, re d'Inghilterra / Zazzo, Rial, McGreevy, Kammerorchster Basel, Goodwin Box set
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RCA 88697174212; RCA - Italia;
Top Customer Reviews
Christophe Rousset's 1996 set has had the field to itself for over a decade. It's a fine performance, well played, sung and directed but I've always felt it to be a little unexciting. While there's no shortage of vitality, I have always sensed a certain lack of variety permeating the three hours of music.
However, it has been universally applauded by music critics, so Paul Goodwin needed to come up with something pretty good to trump Monsieur Rousset.
So how does he do?
Well, the first thing one notices is the choice of singer for the title role. Goodwin opts for countertenor Lawrence Zazzo over a female alto or mezzo. In that respect I suppose one could argue that Sara Mingardo (Rousset's set) perhaps sounds closer to what the original singer, Senesino, might have sounded like - although of course we will never know. However, this is not an impersonation contest and I personally prefer listening to Zazzo. He has a beautiful voice; sweet, but strong enough to avoid the choirboy sound that can so easily spoil the interpretation of these heroic roles.
In other respects, I think Rousset may just have the edge. Nuria Rial sings the role of Costanza well enough, but I think anyone attempting to go head-to-head with Sandrine Piau has to accept the inevitable.
The villain, Isacio, is sung by David Wilson-Johnson. As good as he is, I think that Roberto Scaltriti for Rousset is quite superb.
One weakness in Rousset's set is Claire Brua. I cannot warm to her rather rich and plumy tone.Read more ›
Final point: there is NO PRINTED LIBRETTO BOOKLET included. You have to print one from the PDF file included on CD 1. This I find deplorable for a first issue recording.
Having owned the older recording from Rousset for some years now, I was curious to hear this newer version especially as reviews have been so favourable. Finding a clear 'winner' between the two recordings is pretty much impossible however as both versions have much to recommend them. I do agree that Goodwin gets more drama from the piece and is the more exciting of the two. Rousset's reading is beautifully detailed but more laid back. Often Goodwin's tempos are more upbeat and I think this benefits the piece - the storm music is much improved.
As to casting, well that's going to be down to personal preference. Mingardo is in glorious, sumptious voice for Rousset in the title role but again, Lawrence Zazzo makes more of the words and is the more exciting singer. By conntrast, Piau has the more dramatic voice as Costanza (for Rousset) but then again perhaps Nuria Rial's gentle, soft-grained voice is more apt for this wilting violet role. In the Faustina role of Pulcheria, Claire Brua was always the blot on the landscape on Rousset's recording - her contralto really too fruity and heavy for the role. Geraldine McGreevy for Goodwin is far preferable and does make something dramatically of the role too.Read more ›
The plot is rather silly - basically it says that the British monarchy is really great! There are lines that say (very roughly) "England is built on the backs of all those great people who live near the Thames" alluding to the aristocracy in Handel's audience! There is a reason for this. Premiered on November 11 1727, it was just a month after King George II's coronation, and Handel had been recently granted British naturalisation... hence all the pomp and odd references to Britain in the setting of the Holy Land!
Riccardo Primo, Re d'Inghilterra contains some fantastic soprano arias. Written for the 'rival queens' (who literally fought on stage once), Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni were given very even-handed roles in this opera. In this recording, these prove wonderful material for our modern day sopranos: Geraldine McGreevy and Nuria Rial.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Every Handel opera, however "little known" always betrays the incomparable genius that Handel was. So as an opera its a great discovery because it seems to me that the overall... Read morePublished on 29 Jan. 2013 by ****
Thank you for a wonderful CD. My friend and I went to a performance of this work recently and I bought this CD by way of a thank you for him. Read morePublished on 11 May 2012 by T. Spencer