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Handel: Berenice
George Frideric Handel, Alan Curtis, Il Complesso Barocco
Handel: Berenice
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #3

This Berenice is Curtis' seventh complete recording of a Handel opera for Virgin Classics; the six previous works (Admeto, Arminio, Deidamia, Radamisto, Rodrigo and Fernando, r di Castiglia) were re-released in a spec...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: George Frideric Handel, Alan Curtis, Il Complesso Barocco, Klara Ek, Romina Basso, Ingela Bohlin, Franco Fagioli, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Vito Priante, Zorzi Giustiniani
Title: Handel: Berenice
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Virgin Classics
Original Release Date: 1/1/2010
Re-Release Date: 7/13/2010
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPC: 5099962853620


Product Description
This Berenice is Curtis' seventh complete recording of a Handel opera for Virgin Classics; the six previous works (Admeto, Arminio, Deidamia, Radamisto, Rodrigo and Fernando, rè di Castiglia) were re-released in a special 15-CD box in 2009, and 2011 will bring the release of Ariodante, with Joyce Di Donato in the title role, supported by Karina Gauvin, Sabina Puertolas, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Topi Lehtipuu. In Berenice, set in Alexandria in 80 B.C., the title role of the Egyptian queen is taken by Swedish soprano Klara Ek, while Italian countertenor Franco Fagioli is Demetrio, the man she loves, but who loves her sister Selene, played by Italian mezzo Romina Basso; another Swedish soprano, Ingela Bohlin takes the travesty role of Alessandro, the man Berenice is expected to marry for political expediency, but whom she finally happily chooses as her consort. Berenice was composed at a turbulent time in Handel's career, when he was undergoing both professional and personal crises. It turned out to be the last opera he wrote for John Rich's new theatre in Covent Garden and was performed only four times before disappearing from view. The first staged production since the 18th century took place in 1985 in the UK, at the University of Keele; the opera was subsequently staged in Cambridge in 1993; in Germany, the Karlsruhe Handel Festival presented Berenice in 2001

CD Reviews

Handel Milestone
Paul Van de Water | Virginia, USA | 07/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Once again Alan Curtis and EMI/Virgin Classics give us an excellent recording of a little-known Handel opera. (The one previous recording of Berenice is called merely "satisfactory" by its sole Amazon reviewer.)

Now professor emeritus of musicology at Berkeley, Curtis helped kick off the Handel renaissance with his complete recording of Admeto for EMI in 1977. That recording, which is still available on Virgin CD , starred Rene Jacobs, James Bowman, Max van Egmond, and other pioneers in historically informed performance. The band was Il Complesso Barocco, then comprised primarily of Dutch musicians.

Curtis didn't record any more Handel operas for many years afterwards, but recently he has more than made up for lost time. From his European base, Curtis has reconstituted Il Complesso Barocco as a largely Italian ensemble (although cellist Richte van der Meer plays in both Admeto and Berenice). Since 1999, they have produced CDs of Alcina, Arminio, Deidamia, Ezio, Fernando, Floridante, Lotario, Radamisto, Rodelinda, Rodrigo, and Tolomeo and a fine DVD of Arioidante Handel - Ariodante / Hallenberg, Cherici, Vandoni Iorio, Nesi, Lepore, Stains, Prato, Il Compresso Brocco, Curtis, Pascoe (Spoleto Festival 2007). Many of these are first recordings, and several have won awards. (A box containing six of these operas is currently available from ArkivMusik, although it is not listed at Amazon.)

The plot of Berenice, based on a libretto by Antonio Salvi, is typically convoluted. "The characters gyrate around the central theme of politically expedient marriage in a bewildering series of twists and turns, hoodwinkings, prevarications and plain falsehoods, creating, by Act II, an almost buffo-like imbroglio," writes David Kimbell in the Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia. Nonetheless, as Kimbell says, the opera is "packed with fine arias," of which the most famous are Demetrio's "Si, tra i ceppi" and Berenice's "Avvertite, mie pupille." The three duets are especially appealing.

Although this is apparently Klara Ek's recording premiere, her performance has received widespread praise. Andrew Clark in the Financial Times writes, "No one with an interest in Handel operas will be disappointed by the performance or by a cast led by the bright-voiced Klara Ek in the soprano title role and two excellent mezzos, Romina Basso and Mary Ellen Nesi." Nesi has previously been a stand-out as Polinesso in Curtis's DVD of Ariodante and as Teseo in Petrou's CD of Arianna in Creta. Soprano Ingela Bohlin portrayed the captive Princess Iole in Christie's superb DVD of Hercules Handel - Hercules / Shimell, DiDonato, Spence, Bohlin, Ernman, Kirkbride, Les Arts Florissants, Christie, Luc Bondy (Opera de Paris 2005).

Curtis's Berenice marks a milestone. Every surviving Handel opera has now had at least one high-quality recording--although, unfortunately, not every one remains in print."