Magazine article Opera Canada

Alessandro

Magazine article Opera Canada

Alessandro

Article excerpt

HANDEL

Decca: 478-4699

Attitudes about Baroque opera have changed over the past 50 years. Time was when Opera seria, with its formulaic da capo arias, was considered stilted and deadly dull, but now it seems to he flourishing. Of Handel's 40-plus extant operas, all have been recorded at least once for CD and/or DVD.

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This latest addition to the catalogue is his three-act opera about Alexander the Great, written for the Royal Academy of Music, founded in 1719 (an aristocratically sponsored company; not the teaching institution). For its 1725/26 season, in addition to the renowned Italian castrato Senesino and Italian soprano Francesca Cuzzoni, Handel shrewdly engaged another equally famous prima donna, soprano Faustina Bordoni. Known as much for their offstage rivalry as their singing, Cuzzoni and Bordoni guaranteed Handel a sell-out out audience for his new work (though he much admired her, the composer once threatened to throw Cuzzoni out of a window because of her bad behavior).

Although based on an historical figure, Alessandro is largely fictional. Instead of dealing with One of his military campaigns, the plot is a muddled love triangle involving Alessandro (Croatian countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic) and two princesses--Rossane (sung by the outstanding 22-year-old Russian soprano, Julia Lezhneva) and Lisaura (sung by the equally brilliant Canadian soprano, Karina Gauvin). …

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