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Alcina [3 CD]

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 14, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Alan Curtis, lauded by Opera as one of our finest conductors of Baroque opera, illumines Handel s masterpiece, Alcina, by casting, as heroine, the brilliant Joyce DiDonato. Since Alcina is historically dared by virtuosic sopranos like Sutherland and Battle, this innovative recording with a mezzo is a must-have not just for Alcina freaks but all who adore sensational vocalism. As Handel did in his time, Curtis arrays our era s finest Baroque singers such as Maite Beaumont and Karina Gauvin in supporting roles around his star. With this electrifying Alcina, first ever studio recording of the rarely heard Ezio and Rolando Villazón s new album, Handel Year 2009 is being exceptionally well feted by Deutsche Grammophon.

From the Artist

ACT I Disguised as a paladin and masquerading under the assumed name of her brother Ricciardo, Bradamante enters in search of her fiancé, Ruggiero. In the company of her tutor, Melisso, who is similarly disguised as a knight, she has landed on an island ruled by the sorceress Alcina. Together they penetrate to the island's interior, a wilderness surrounded by mountains. Here they encounter Alcina's sister, Morgana, who immediately falls in love with "Ricciardo". The moun¬tain bursts open, revealing Alcina's magnificent palace. The sorceress herself enters on the arm of Ruggiero, whom she genuinely loves and who is entirely in thrall to her charms. She wel¬comes Bradamante and Melisso as her guests. Young Oberto asks the two strangers if they know about his father, Astolfo, who has disappeared on the island. Bradamante tells Melisso in an undertone that Alcina has probably turned Astolfo into a wild beast, a fate that has befallen many another hero. Oberto leaves, and Bradamante tries to confront Ruggiero, but Ruggiero has completely forgotten his fiancée as well as his former bravery in this realm of pleasure and enjoyment. He mocks "Ricciardo" and demands only to see Alcina. Alcina's general, Oronte, arrives. He is furious because he believes that Bradamante / Ricciardo has come to steal away Morgana, with whom he is in love. He challenges Ricciardo to a duel, but Morgana protects her new lover and pertly gives the desperate Oronte his marching orders. Oronte responds by plotting against the lovers. He tells Ruggiero that Alcina turns her former lovers into streams, stones and wild beasts and that a similar fate awaits him now that Alcina has fallen in love with Ricciardo. In a fit of jealousy, Ruggiero accuses the unsuspecting sorceress of being unfaithful, while Alcina for her part assumes that Ruggiero no longer loves her. When Ruggiero, burning with hatred, confronts his ostensible rival, Bradamante angrily reveals her true identity, but Ruggiero is blinded by jealousy and refuses to believe her. Morgana begs Bradamante to flee, claiming that in order to pacify Ruggiero, Alcina is prepared to turn Ricciardo into a wild animal. Convinced that Alcina will spare her own sister's lover, Brada¬mante pretends that she returns Morgana's affections. ACT II While Ruggiero, still in the palace, expresses his yearning for Alcina, Melisso appears to him in the form of his former tutor, Atlante. He upbraids Ruggiero for betraying his ideals and gives him a ring whose magic power immediately restores Ruggiero's reason and transforms the richly appointed palace chamber into a dreadful wasteland. Melisso, who has turned back into his former shape, advises Ruggiero to pretend that he still loves Alcina and secretly to prepare for his escape. Bradamante once again reveals her true identity, but in spite of the fact that his love for her has been rekindled, Ruggiero rejects her because he is afraid that Alcina is again tricking him by appearing in the guise of Bradamante. Close to the palace gardens, Alcina is in the process of turning Ricciardo into a wild animal in order to dispel Ruggiero's suspicions. Morgana stops her, and Ruggiero, who now comes running in, declares that Alcina's intentions are sufficient to calm him down. He says that he forgives Ricciardo. Morgana claims that Ricciardo loves not Alcina but herself. Ruggiero receives permission from Alcina to arm himself and go hunting in order to clear his mind. Before he leaves, he hypocritically assures Alcina of his love. Oberto asks Alcina about his father. He resists her temptations, and so she finally promises that he will soon see his father again. Oronte enters and tells Alcina that Ruggiero, urged on by Ricciardo and Melisso, is trying to escape. Alcina is in despair but she decides to act. Bradamante tells Oberto that Alcina has turned his father into a lion, but he will see him again soon. Ruggiero is finally reconciled with Bradamante, whereupon an enraged Morgana bursts out of her hiding place: she has recognized Ricciardo's true identity, and threatens the couple with Alcina's vengeance. Ruggiero prophesies the imminent end of Alcina's magic realm. In a subterranean vault, Alcina calls on demons to help her, but she is soon forced to realize that her magic wand has lost its power. ACT III In the entrance hall of Alcina's palace, Morgana, disappointed in love, tries to rekindle her relationship with her former lover, Oronte. Although Oronte still loves her, he pretends for the present to be indifferent towards her. Alcina and Ruggiero meet by chance, provoking a confrontation between them. He admits that he wants to leave her, attributing his decision to his martial prowess and his love for Bradamante. Alcina's anguish and her memory of their happi¬ness together leave him unmoved, as do her threats. Melisso has found Ruggiero and Bradamante again and reports that the island is surrounded by warriors and wild animals. Ruggiero is determined to fight, while Bradamante insists that before she leaves she will free the men on whom Alcina has cast a spell. Oronte tells Alcina that her armies have been defeated and that Ruggiero has not fled but is threatening to attack the island. (Oronte secretly sees in these events a justified punishment for Alcina's crimes.) In her despair she admits that she is powerless now that she has been defeated. In a courtyard outside Alcina's palace where wild beasts are padding to and fro in their cages, a joyful Oberto awaits his father's liberation. Alcina takes him to task, but Oberto retorts that she herself promised this reunion. In order to be avenged, Alcina lets a lion out of its cage, gives Oberto her spear, and orders him to kill the animal which is approaching them, a picture of good-natured docility. But Oberto knows that his father is concealed within the lion, and instead of turning on it, he threatens Alcina with her own spear. In a final confrontation with Brada¬mante and Ruggiero, Alcina once again calls on all her powers, but in vain: neither she nor Morgana can prevent Ruggiero from using Alcina's magic ring to shatter the urn that holds the source of her powers. The palace and its surroundings crumble, and the enchanted beings are restored to human form. They celebrate the happy outcome and an end to their sufferings.
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Product Details

  • Performer: Joyce DiDonato, Maite Beaumont, Karina Gauvin, Sonia Prina, Kobie van Rensburg, et al.
  • Orchestra: Il Complesso Barocco
  • Conductor: Alan Curtis
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (April 14, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Archiv
  • ASIN: B001M48X3Y
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,014 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Alcina, Giulio Cesare, Ariodante and Orlando are Handel's greatest operas, and thanks to Alan Curtis and a quite formidable cast, here we have a winner. Alcina has been lucky on records, it was the first Handel opera to be recorded both with famous stars and with all the roles sung in the original registers, the 1961 DECCA recording with Sutherland, Berganza and Freni; then EMI gave us in 1985 the first recording with period instruments, and some 10 years ago ERATO was at hand in Paris to record some memorable performances at the Palais Garnier with both, opera stars and period instruments, boasting Renée Fleming, Susan Graham and Natalie Dessay in the leading roles and the exquisite musicians of Les Arts Florissants under William Christie in the pit. It was the hottest ticket in Paris at the time and listening to the recording you will see why. The new Archiv recording, much better than the Rodelinda with the same team, is a good match for the ERATO version. Joyce DiDonato, surprisingly singing soprano, is glorious in the title role. Her Alcina is memorable as an interpretation and as a piece of magnificent singing. I'm sure, in years to come, this recording will be cited as some of DiDonato's finest work. Less well known is Maite Beaumont, but she sings a virile and secure Ruggiero, perhaps not as individual as Susan Graham, but very good indeed. Karina Gauvin covers herself in glory in "Tornami a vagheggiar", not even Joan Sutherland would dare to steal the aria from her. Il Complesso Barocco is as stylish and elegant as ever, and Alan Curtis obviously loves the piece.Read more ›
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This being the Handel commemoration year, we Handel lovers are really being bathed in bliss with all these new Handel recordings, and we were also treated to the re-release in one box of six spectacular earlier recordings of Handel's operas by Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco on Virgin Classics -- the oldest going back 30 years!. Having spent the last couple of days listening in amazement to some of those earlier recordings, I could not resist putting on the new Alcina recording as soon as it arrived. I really didn't think that it would be possible for Curtis to do even better than his recent recording of Tolemeo, which (with Gauvin and Hallenberg) certainly outdid his already excellent previous recording of Floridante (with the all-star cast of Mijanovic, DiDonato, Invernizzi, Rostorf-Zamir and Priante). But on my first listening of Alcina, first of all it was obvious that this is the best performance that DiDonato has ever done -- she has finally fully found her ideal persona. And it may well be Gauvin's finest performance to date as well. The rich brightness of the sound comes right out of the HiFi and into your listening space as if the singers (and the musicians) were actually right there in your living room. Maite Beaumont -- a name totally new to me -- is also absolutely superb. And so is another new discovery -- the tenor Kobie van Rensburg. And helped by the fact that this is one of Handel's finest operas, the whole recording just reverberates with the consummate sound of an obvious all-time classic recording. People will still be listening to this in a hundred years -- though I won't be around to enjoy the verification of my prediction. That's OK -- I WILL be around to verify my prediction that it will win Opera Recording of the Year.Read more ›
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This is a very nice recording of Handel's Alcina. All the reviewers here remind that this performance IS the true Baroque style, while the older recordings, namely Boynge and Leitner and Christie, are NOT.
I do not pretend to be knowledgeable about what IS Baroque.
Entirely from the muscial angle, I do not think that the entire cast here outshone the 1959 Cologne cast.
Joyce Didonato as Alcina gives a emotionally charged and stylish performance, sung with more pathos and drama than Joan Sutherland, though strictly speaking, her voice is not on par with Sutherland's crystal clear timbre under Leitner's concert performance of this opera. Karina Guavin as Morgana is perhaps the true star of this cast. I wonder why she's not been casted as Alcina herself.
The other characters, Ruggiero's Maite Beaumont, despite the praise accorded to her, is not really the best if you compare her with Teresa Berganza's performance under Bonynge. She has the right timbre for the role, but her habit of singing with 'hairpin legato' and scooping on notes are not, I suppose, what is being demanded in the Baroque style. Ruggiero is not an easy character to handle, and I wonder if South African countertenor Christopher Ainsle, whom I've seen live in this role giving a totally comeptent performance, will some day record this role.
And as for Oronte, I have not heard any one out singing Monti under Leitner in the Cologne performance. Sonia Prina sung a sterling Bradamante, though.
Much commendation should be given to the conductor Alan Curtis and his Il Complesso Barocco. Curtis' treatment of the da capo in the arias of the opera should likewise be highly recommended as being the best treatment ever of those marvellous pieces.
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Alcina [3 CD]
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