Virgin Classics 3 65483 2
Recorded in 2005.
Released in 2007.
Fernando: Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor
Elvida: Veronica Cangemi, soprano
Isabella: Marianna Pizzolato, mezzo-soprano
Sancio: Max Emanuel Cencic, countertenor
Dionisio: Filippo Adami, tenor
Altomaro: Antonio Abete, bass
Alfonso: Neal Banerjee, tenor
Il Complesso Barocco (on period instruments)
Conductor: Alan Curtis
Composed at the beginning of the 1730ís, this Fernando, re di Castiglia is better known as Sosarme, re di Media (HWV 30). We donít really know why Handel changed the names of the characters, the time and the place of the plot when two thirds of the opera was already composed. It was probably to take care not to hurt some political sensitivity. Whatever Handelís reasons were, Alan Curtis has chosen to record this Ďoriginalí version.There are not that many differences between the two versions. Indeed, a certain amount of recitatives are cut here in order to fit the performance on two CDs. Here are both the usual good and failed qualities of most recordings under Alan Curtis. This is mainly a stylish but slightly too placid approach, here with a slightly dry continuo. Nevertheless the global result is quite pleasant and is a good way to discover this music. The cast is of a quite high standard, with particular praises to Antonio Abete, Marina Pizzolato and the two countertenors. Lawrence Zazzo seems to be back at his best from a vocal point of view and is really a convincing Fernando. Max Emmanuel Cencicís very good four recordings of cantatas by Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi and Antonio Caldara can occasionally sound too lyrical. Thus to listen to him at last in an opera is definitely interesting and he offers an excellent performance. There is absolutely no doubt that he must sing other Handelian operatic roles, and preferably not the secondary ones. On the other hand, Veronica Cangemi and her thickened sound production is quite disappointing. This recording is not far from being an excellent one and should be the first choice of the music lover who wants to discover Ö Sosarme! It is definitely to be prefered to the Sosarme recording under Johannes Somary (Newport Classic). The old 1955 recording under Anthony Lewis and re-released on CD on several labels remains an interesting testimony of the only Handel opera recording with Alfred Deller.
© Philippe Gelinaud - July 2007
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