Lotario (Highlights)
~ HWV 26 ~

Oehms Classics OC 902
1 CD
full price
Recorded in 2004.
Released in 2004.

Adelaide: Nuria Rial, soprano
Lotario: Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor
Berengario: Andreas Karasiak, tenor
Matilde: Annette Markert, alto
Idelberto: Robert Cornelius, countertenor
Clodomiro: Huub Claessens, bass

Kammerorchester Baselbarock (on period instruments)
Conductor: Paul Goodwin




Handel's Lotario was the last of his operas with no commercial or semi-commercial recording, but a few months ago that destiny seemed to be promised a sudden change: the new critical edition of the score by the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe was published, and new recordings under Alan Curtis (on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) and Paul Goodwin (on Oehms Classics) were announced. Now both recordings have been released, and it is curious to ponder the change in the opera's situation: Curtis’s recording is often excellent but is frustrating because several arias were abridged and important recitatives were cut because BMG (DHM's parent company) demanded that the opera had to fit onto only two discs for alleged economic reasons. Curtis did his best to keep as much of Handel's score as possible under these circumstances, but such cuts are harmful to the musical and dramatic rhetoric of the work. 

Sadly, one of the reasons BMG insisted upon this foolish artistic policy was the rumour of a rival recording by Paul Goodwin on Oehms. Alas, the situation here is even worse. It seemed that a complete recording was planned, but the eventual result is a mere single CD containing the overture, a seemingly arbitrary choice of eleven arias which do not follow any logic, one duet, and the final ‘coro’. Rumours will certainly abound that the Curtis's performance with Il Complesso Barocco might have prevented Oehms from releasing a complete version of Goodwin's performance, but the odd content of this disc suggests that it simply represents the most favourable moments from a live concert performance that perhaps contained too many moments that did not bear repeated listening. Certainly, the edited selection of music does not clearly reveal any profound dramatic or artistic criteria. Indeed, the rather strange disc that bears the proud label "World premiere recording of the HHA edition" is an uneven experience, with six arias taken from the first act (not exactly following the correct order), only three from the second act, and a paltry two from Act III. Furthermore, there is no aria sung by Idelberto, who is a really important character, a sort of representative figure of the virtuous hero. Idelberto represents the male equivalent to Adelaide, whereas Lotario sometimes show weaknesses and knows the temptation of behaving badly. While the new HHA edition was reserved especially for Goodwin to use it first, it seems ironic that Curtis' recording project gives a more complete picture of Lotario using Curtis's performing edition based on the 19th century score by Chrysander. On the whole, Lotario is not the most fascinating of Handel's rarer operas, but, as always, there are some beautiful arias, and the characters and their relationships are not to be neglected. For example, Berengario and Matilda are a particularly interesting and uncommon bicephalous representation of the villainous character-type. 

This CD is not an efficient way to discover Lotario despite Paul Goodwin's neat direction and the Kammerorchester Baselbarock producing some really enjoyable playing. Compared to Curtis' Sara Mingardo and Simone Kermes (though she is not at her best), Lawrence Zazzo and Nuria Rial seem more decorative, and the latter is sometimes quite superficial. This is a live performance, and Zazzo’s fast runs are not always very accurate, and his low notes are sometimes engorged, but overall his performance is a very convincing one: he is definitely a countertenor worth hearing in some important castrato parts. Nuria Rial offers a very nice performance too, although her delivery lacks drama, and her singing is full of prominent poor breathing. Adelaide's greatest moment is the resolute defiant aria "Scherza il mar", but where Rial sounds prettily sweet but emotionally detatched (which is fine if you enjoy nice singing for its own sake), Kermes sounds like she is really fired up and knows what the character is singing about. Huub Claessens and Annette Markert offer good characterizations of Clodomiro and Matilde, and Andreas Karasiak seems to do his best as Berengario. Yet the overall impression of this unrepresentative "highlights" disc is that it is just a nice recital which enables people to hear Lauwrence Zazzo in four arias from Lotario

© Philippe Gelinaud & David Vickers - December 2004

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