Author Topic: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios  (Read 138414 times)

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Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #80 on: April 20, 2009, 04:47:22 AM »
Let me just add that I strongly recommend, as well, his early Italian cantatas (lots of ideas in the operas were nicked from these) and that Glossa's series (currently at 5 releases, and cheaply available on prestoclassical.co.uk) is superb. There are fine releases from the likes of Kozena and von Otter (IIRC) on Archiv as well.

Thanks for this. Do those Glossa sets include librettos?

I should explain that I've not structured my delving in any sensible way - tending to follow whim, good reviews, personal recommendations, and also pursuing arias I've enjoyed in albums of collections. Also, I've not really concerned myself about whether they're operas or merely sung works. So my 'listened to so far' list includes Acis and Galatea (a great favourite), Apollo e Dafne, Floridante, Giulio Cesare and Alcina, which is quite a motley collection I think!
« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 04:50:56 AM by Elgarian »

Offline The new erato

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #81 on: April 20, 2009, 05:32:24 AM »
Thanks for this. Do those Glossa sets include librettos?

yes they do; they are luxury editions in every way!

Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #82 on: April 20, 2009, 05:49:48 AM »
yes they do; they are luxury editions in every way!

Hoorah! Thank you.

Offline knight66

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #83 on: April 20, 2009, 11:19:52 AM »
Elgarian,

I share your enthusiasm for Ariodante. Now, be aware, visiting this site can cost you a lot of money, if you weaken and buy things that people suggest to you. You have mentioned two of my favourite singers. Baker and Hunt-Lieberson. Hunt Lieberson started singing in the Soprano range, but somehow the transition to Mezzo brought a more distinctive sound and she blossomed into the extrordinary communicator she was for that very brief career.

Ariodante with Janet Baker, Edith Mathis etc and conducted by Leppard is available on Phillips. It is an excellent performance, though on modern instruments, rather than authentic ones. Another highlight of the opera is the duet 'Bramo aver' towards the end of the opera. Handel was exceptionally sparing of duets, often supplying 20 arias and only two duets in a piece. However, they were often amongst his most beautiful pieces.

'Scherza infida' yields to a number of interpretations. It can be regretful, elegaic, filled with anger or other worldly, a masterpiece. If you like the countertenor voice, then the disc by David Daniels that includes this aria sheds a yet different light on it.

Amongst my own favourites of Handel's major vocal works are Julius Caesar and Theodora. Handel named that latter piece as his greatest piece and it was amongst his final, if not his final piece. If you like the idea of DVDs for opera, then in each instance I urge the Glyndbourne versions on you. Each production is riviting in its own way. However, if you need CDs, there is no complete Theodora with Hunt Lieberson singing the Mezzo part of Irene. She is the soprano on one set. From our old site I quote my review of her recital that includes Irene's music......

"Fifteen years ago this disc would probably have received a less extatic welcome. At that time we were still in thrall to the expressionless white tone of the Early Music specialists. To an extent we have moved away from this way of singing and listening to Bach and Handel through singers such as Ann Sophie von Otter.
However, with Hunt Lieberson we are back, in the best sense, to the supra-expressiveness and wide range of tone colours of the likes of Janet Baker. Here we see the 'face' of the singer.

Hunt Lieberson has been lauded for the spiritual aspect of her singing and in the Theodora items she pours out beautiful tone getting to the heart of this music expressing faith. 'As with rosy steps' becomes a benediction and she fines her tone down to a penetrating but tender thread. Throughout the disc she also makes the silences work dramatically rather than simply exist between the notes. It says much for the singer that the conductor of the disc, Harry Bicket, part financed the disc to ensure these performances were preserved. He and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment serve her and the music well.

The other major item here is the early Italian cantata, 'La Lucretia' We and Hunt Lieberson know this through Janet Baker's first rate performance. However, the new performance finds different light and shades and again the singer inhabits rather than illustrates the character of Lucretia. A performance full of detail and flashes of temperament marvelously sung.

Finally two arias from Serse; where even 'Ombra mai fu' comes up fresh and tender.

A must have disc. Please, we need some more from this singer, now surely in the prime of her vocal and interperative powers. This is art that illuminates."

Again, copied from our old site, my review of the Julius Caesar DVD.....

"Glyndebourne awoke very late to the possibilities offered by Handel’s Operas. In its entire history, it has produced only two and has additionally staged versions of the Oratorios Jephtha then Theodora. Odd, considering the popularity of Handel over the last twenty years. Theodora was a terrific success, closely followed with the Silent Screen version of Rodalinda. Now the latest show, Giulio Casare. I say and mean ‘show’, this is to an extent Bollywood meets Baroque. In every respect I believe it to be a resounding success.

I have the DVDs a luxury box with three discs! There are excellent extras, but you get three hours of inspired Handel in an imaginative production where the musical side could not be bettered. There is not a dull moment in it. The plot is made very clear, which is an achievement. The setting is for the most part a blend of British Colonial from the 1880s to the 1920s and late Ottoman for the Egyptian court. Occasionally the late 20th centaury intrudes, but it does not jar. There are a lot of laughs, but there is real pathos and the moving moments are not at all underplayed.

The conductor is William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, it plays its socks off. There is a real variety of colour. The horns whoop it in the aria Va tacito, the woodwinds and the violins are light and airy. There is an enormous range of volume. The orchestra was exciting and definitely a protagonist, not plodding along with a mere accompaniment.

Everything is put in the lap of the audience to engage it and to enlighten it. The politics are treated quite lightly, but they are there. The decadence and the plotting of the Egyptian court are made clear in everything from the costumes to the dance moves and through to superb three dimensional character acting.

So, why Bollywood? The Egyptian court often expresses a lot of what it is about through the  choreography. For instance, Cleopatra sings her first aria and dances it accompanied by and echoed by dancers around her. She at once establishes that she is kittenish, humorous, intelligent, sexy, dangerous and; the dancing makes clear her contempt for her brother Tolomeo. This last is a nasty effete degenerate, he likes costumes and cruelty and has no loyalty to anyone.
When Caesar arrives, Tolomeo tries to poision him, first with drink, then food. Here is a clearly choreographed scene where Caesar, the straight dealer immediately gets to grips with the plots against him, whilst singing Va Tacito, he moves backwards and forwards across the stage contrary to the Egyptians, exposing their poorly thought out plots. It is like a stately galliard of diplomacy, with the hidden agenda being exposed by the stage movements. Terrific, comic and serious in turns.

All the cast are completely first rate. Sarah Connolly is absolutely convincing as a man. I at once accepted her as male and was not aware at all of the woman-dressed-as-a-man issue. It is a remarkable piece of acting and her singing is superb. Runs, trills, legato, decoration…it all looks easy from her. Danielle de Niese equally terrific, great technique, she moved like a professional dancer and clearly had fun. Her every movement added to your understanding of her character. But she also plumbed the heartbreak and the sincerity of the role. I wanted even more music.

Patricia Bardon, the widow Cornelia, a virtuous Roman matron to the life. She went through a lot of violence, either being dragged round the stage by Tolomeo, or his thug of a sidekick, Achilla. The former was sung by the young countertenor Christophe Dumaux and he sometimes could not be distinguished from Bardon with her burnished contralto, a compliment, not a problem.

His acting was as good as anyone’s, he was detestable and the cowardly nature came through clearly. The director, David McVicar certainly expected him to be acrobatic. I was often taken aback by the sheer quality of the stagecraft from everyone involved. Angela Kirchschlager did her usual trousers role as Cornelia’s son, she sang well, but here, despite her being so well known for this type of role, I never was deceived; I was looking at a woman pretending to be a ‘lad’.

I could go on, Christopher Maltman was first rate as the aforementioned thug, the camp comic turn by Rachid Ben Abdeslam as Cleopatra’s confidante was a showstopper. He had an ever present folded umbrella on his arm, another good dancer and is yet another first rate countertenor.

It is a great shame Handel rations duets so severely. Possibly the best music in the piece was for Cornelia and her son at the end of act One, a sublime duet, one of only two in the long score. Both duets were memorably sung. 

At the end the crowd roared and I was not at all surprised. Glyndebourne, more Handel, as soon as you please.


Further Handel or Hunt Lieberson items....

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,555.0.html

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,555.20.html

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,555.40.html

Mike



« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 11:50:11 AM by knight »
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Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #84 on: April 20, 2009, 12:09:47 PM »
I share your enthusiasm for Ariodante. Now, be aware, visiting this site can cost you a lot of money, if you weaken and buy things that people suggest to you.

I'm well aware of it! However, I slow myself down by seeking out as many reviews as I can before making a purchase (if it's an expensive one). That's kept me from complete bankcruptcy so far, though it's been a close-run thing sometimes.

Quote
Amongst my own favourites of Handel's major vocal works are Julius Caesar and Theodora.

Giulio Cesare I know; and I have the DVD you've reviewed there (jhar26, another member of this forum, was responsible for tipping me off in that respect). It's one of the most breathtaking opera productions on DVD that I've ever seen, and I fully concur with your high regard for it. It sets the bar very high for other purchases to reach ....

Theodora - I have the Christie version with Sophie Daneman awaiting my attention (I haven't listened to it yet). But this is a consequence of my having effectively discovered Baroque through Christie, Daneman and Petibon singing French material; I've tended to opt for anything with Sophie Daneman in it in particular, and I love her singing in Acis & Galatea. But I already have my eye on the Glyndbourne Theodora DVD with Hunt Liberson, and your recommendation has pushed it up several notches on my list - so thank you.

Offline jhar26

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #85 on: April 20, 2009, 12:52:06 PM »

Amongst my own favourites of Handel's major vocal works are Julius Caesar and Theodora.


Handel named that latter piece as his greatest piece and it was amongst his final, if not his final piece. If you like the idea of DVDs for opera, then in each instance I urge the Glyndbourne versions on you. Each production is riviting in its own way.
I love the Giulio Cesare DVD, but Peter Sellars doing the production of Theodora scares the living daylights out of me. Do you (or anyone else) know of any good Handel operas on DVD in more traditional productions?
Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips.

Offline knight66

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #86 on: April 20, 2009, 01:04:39 PM »
There is an English National Opera version of Julius Caesar with Janet Baker, very traditional. It is not live, but I think it was transported into a studio for the recording. It is pretty good. Also by ENO, Xerses...



This is exceptionally well thought of. It has anachronistic touches, the setting is more contemporary to Handel's time. When he was producing his works, the singers would dress in 18th cent clothes with the odd touch of ancient armour or the odd toga over the contemporary clothes.

However, that Theodora is not the usual Sellars scare tactics of, for example, his Mozart Da Ponte productions. By contrast, the Theodora, although updated, is superbly moving. I have never encountered a negative comment on it.

Mike
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Offline jhar26

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #87 on: April 20, 2009, 01:53:50 PM »
Thanks, Mike. That Xerxes looks like 'the real thing.'  :D
Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips.

Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #88 on: April 20, 2009, 07:15:03 PM »
I love the Giulio Cesare DVD, but Peter Sellars doing the production of Theodora scares the living daylights out of me.

I was looking at a you-tube from this Theodora a few days ago, Gaston (while looking for more Lorraine Hunt Lieberson) - see here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQlt1UxjvWU

This is a tricky one. She's magnificent; the aria wonderful; but I can see that the production might indeed make me squirm a bit. I really can't tell from an 8-minute clip how the thing will seem in the whole, though Mike's comments are obviously reassuring.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 07:39:18 PM by Elgarian »

Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #89 on: April 20, 2009, 07:33:36 PM »
And also - a couple of clips from the ENO Xerxes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l25f4YOXg3I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEzDivKgbo0

Bearing in mind that my general preference is to listen on CD rather than watch on DVD (unless the DVD is exceptional), I'm not sure about this one. I'm not sure what I'm gaining by the watching that I wouldn't prefer merely to imagine.

Offline The new erato

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #90 on: April 20, 2009, 08:34:50 PM »
I really can't tell from an 8-minute clip how the thing will seem in the whole, though Mike's comments are obviously reassuring.
On the whole it works much better than one should think from a short clip; I've just watched it.

Online Que

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #91 on: April 20, 2009, 08:52:03 PM »
Any thoughts about these recordings? :)


Click picture

Admeto (Rachel Yakar, Rita Dams, Ulrik Gold, Max van Egmont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 1977)
Arminio (Vivica Genaux, Geraldine McGGreevy, Dominique Labelle, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2000)
Deidamia (Simone Kermes, Anna Bonitatibus, Dominique Labelle, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2001)
Radamisto (Joyce DiDonato, Patrizia Ciofi Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2004)
Rodrigo (Sandrine Piau, Gloria Banditelli, Rufus Müller, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 1997)
Fernando, Re di Castiglia (Lawrence Zazzo, Veronica Cangemi, Max Emmanuel Cencic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2005)

Q
À chacun son goût.

Offline knight66

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #92 on: April 20, 2009, 09:14:46 PM »
Sorry Rego, I have not got even one of those recordings.

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline The new erato

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #93 on: April 20, 2009, 10:30:13 PM »
Any thoughts about these recordings? :)


Click picture

Admeto (Rachel Yakar, Rita Dams, Ulrik Gold, Max van Egmont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 1977)
Arminio (Vivica Genaux, Geraldine McGGreevy, Dominique Labelle, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2000)
Deidamia (Simone Kermes, Anna Bonitatibus, Dominique Labelle, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2001)
Radamisto (Joyce DiDonato, Patrizia Ciofi Maite Beaumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2004)
Rodrigo (Sandrine Piau, Gloria Banditelli, Rufus Müller, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 1997)
Fernando, Re di Castiglia (Lawrence Zazzo, Veronica Cangemi, Max Emmanuel Cencic, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis / 2005)

Q
Yes. That I regret buying most (at least 4) of these singly. Somewhat variable in quality IIRC but never less than good, and it contains 2-3 operas that are not easily available in other versions.

Elgarian

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #94 on: April 21, 2009, 12:31:51 AM »
I didn't know this box existed - has anyone actually seen one? I presume there are no librettos in this collected set?

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #95 on: April 21, 2009, 02:37:30 AM »
I didn't know this box existed - has anyone actually seen one? I presume there are no librettos in this collected set?

According to the track listing at the EMI website, disc 16 of the set has libretti and liner notes.

I'm tempted to get it, since I've already got the Deidamia, Fernando and Rodrigo, and like 'em a lot, but I guess it'd be cheaper to find the other three individually. 
« Last Edit: April 21, 2009, 02:47:40 AM by Wendell_E »
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Offline T-C

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #96 on: April 21, 2009, 05:13:50 AM »
Handel is one of my most favorite composers. I have over 300 CDs and DVDs with his music…  8)

A few Handel opera recommendations:

Giulio Cesare : DVD – Christie (Opus Arte) – The Glyndebourne production.
                                 This is the obvious recommendation…
                         CD – Minkowski (DG)

Rodelinda : DVD – Christie (Kultur) – Another Glyndebourne gem. This is one of Handel's greatest
                                   operas and this recording is the best – audio or video.
                         CD – Curtis – This is not a perfect performance, but it’ Ok.

Tamerlano : DVD – McCreesh (Opus Arte)
                       CD – Petru (MDG) – Excellent!

Ariodante : DVD – Curtis (Dynamic) – Very good !
                   CD – Minkowski (DG) – one of the greatest recordings of a Handel opera.

Alcina : CD – Curtis (DG). This new one is currently the best recording for this opera.

Serse : DVD – Rousset (TDK). The best DVD version. And the singing is in Italian…
                CD – McGegan (Conifer)

Orlando : DVD Christie (Arthaus) – Musically not bad but not everyone will like the staging…
                CD : Hogwood (Decca) or Christie (Erato) – I cannot decide which is the better…

Theodora : DVD – Christie (Kultur). The Glyndebourne production. Not exactly an opera but
                         musically this is a knockout! And it is one of Handel’s greatest creations.

Hercules: DVD – Christie (Bel Air) – A staged oratorio. Outstanding performance especially from
                        Joyce DiDonato as Dejanira.
                   CD – Minkowski (DG)

Agrippina : DVD – Malgoire (Dynamic). The staging is modern, but Veronique Gens and
                             Philippe Jaroussky are the mother and son…
                       CD – Gardiner (Philips)

Riccardo Primo – CD – Goodwin (DHM). The Rousset (Decca) recording was even better, but
                          currently unavailable. This new recording with Lawrence Zazzo and Nuria Rial is very good.

Rinaldo – CD – Hogwood (Decca) or Jacobs (HM)

Teseo – DVD – Katschner (Arthaus). Beautiful.
                 CD – Minkowski (Erato)


Offline The new erato

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #97 on: April 21, 2009, 05:33:14 AM »
Add la Resurrezione with Minkowsky an Archiv and Røschmanns German Arias on HM.

Bulldog

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #98 on: April 21, 2009, 05:40:04 AM »
My favorite single disc of Handel vocal music is "Heroic Arias" sung by James Bowman with Robert King conducting.  This is Bowman at his best, and King is/was my favored Handel conductor.  King's in prison now for messing with boys; that was a sad day when I heard the news.

Offline jhar26

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Re: Getting at Handel's operas and oratorios
« Reply #99 on: April 21, 2009, 09:46:13 AM »
And also - a couple of clips from the ENO Xerxes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l25f4YOXg3I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEzDivKgbo0

Bearing in mind that my general preference is to listen on CD rather than watch on DVD (unless the DVD is exceptional), I'm not sure about this one. I'm not sure what I'm gaining by the watching that I wouldn't prefer merely to imagine.
I wonder if I'll be able to resist getting myself a copy of the Xerxes DVD. ;)

I enjoy opera CD's and DVD's about equally. If you would put a gun to my head I guess that I would choose DVD's because opera is supposed to be a visual as well as a musical art form and with CD's the visual aspect isn't there.
Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips.