Magazine article Opera Canada

Handel

Magazine article Opera Canada

Handel

Article excerpt

GIULIO CESARE

Naive: OP 30536

Two of Canada's finest singers headline this stunning new recording of one of Handel's most widely heard operas. Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux takes on the title role and soprano Karina Gauvin appears as Cleopatra, and both are in winning form. The remainder of the cast--including Italian contralto Romina Basso (Cornelia), Hungarian soprano Emoke Barath (Sesto), Italian countertenor Filippo Mineccia (Tolomeo) and Norwegian baritone Johannes Weisser (Achilla)--is equally strong. Alan Curtis and his II Complesso Barocco, which he founded in Amsterdam in 1979, take some rather brisk tempi--extending the singers' challenges--but his 29-member orchestra's texture is gloriously transparent throughout.

Lemieux is a very husky-voiced Caesar, with beautifully round tones and magnificent trills. Her Act I "Empio, diro, tu sei," as Caesar acts with disgust toward Tolomeo on being presented with the severed head of Pompey, displays amazingly florid runs of the type we rarely hear from contraltos, and her phrasing is always sensitive and artful. Handel created the role, like those of Sesto and Tolomeo, for a castrato, but Curds chooses to use a male singer for only one of the three, that of the Egyptian ruler, Tolomeo. Caesar's driving, warlike "Al lampo dell'armi" in Act III, with its astonishingly rapid 6/8 tempo, is delivered in incredibly clean and agile coloratura style.

Gauvin is impressive at every turn as Cleopatra, co-ruler of Egypt with her usurping brother Tolomeo. …

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