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Patrizia Ciofi & Joyce DiDonato - Amor e gelosia (Handel Operatic Duets)
George Frideric Handel, Alan Curtis, Il Complesso Barocco
Patrizia Ciofi & Joyce DiDonato - Amor e gelosia (Handel Operatic Duets)
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1

In baroque opera, the spotlight was usually reserved for the bravura arias, designed to show off the singers' brilliant coloratura and skill in improvising ornamentation. The ensembles, on the other hand, were left to lang...  more »


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In baroque opera, the spotlight was usually reserved for the bravura arias, designed to show off the singers' brilliant coloratura and skill in improvising ornamentation. The ensembles, on the other hand, were left to languish in the shadows. This record aims to right that wrong in a program of 17 duets drawn from 13 mostly unfamiliar Handel operas. In an attempt to create some cohesion, these primarily short selections are arranged under the heading "Love and Jealousy," with love predominating and usually prevailing. If the title sounds a bit gimmicky, never mind: the music's the thing and it is wonderful. Expressed with Handel's inimitable dramatic intensity and deeply felt inwardness, it encompasses every amorous emotion from tenderness, ardent protestation and rapturous joy to fear of loss, anguish and mournful farewell, using an infinite variety of form, texture and character. Some duets begin with a recitative; the voices separate and unite, conversing, interweaving, joining in imitation or harmony. The orchestra, a period-instrument group of soloists, provides introductions, interludes and postludes which set mood and atmosphere and contribute greatly to contrast and diversity. The performances are splendid. The two singers prove that the duet is as fertile a vehicle for virtuosic display as any aria, and they find plenty of opportunities for ornamentation in the da capos. Their voices can blend and merge as well as remain distinctly individual in timbre and color, and they succeed in creating, or at least suggesting, situations and personalities even in the shortest selections. The playing is impeccable: rhythmically crisp and pungent, texturally transparent, and very expressive. The only cavil is that the selections often follow each other without a pause, making it difficult to be sure where one ends and the next begins. --Edith Eisler

CD Reviews

A feast
Roy U. Rojas Wahl | Teaneck, NJ United States | 09/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The programme maybe disjointed, but it doesn't matter, because the singing is some of the most glorious I have EVER heard. A shining feast of articulation, phrasings and harmonies, heavenly executed by Ms Ciofi and Ms Di Donato.

Just buy it for an unparalleled vocal chord experience; marvel at the singing. Any other considerations are entirely oblivious.
A sumptuous feast of Handel
Mr Richard Fitzsimmons | Scotland | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Alan Curtis has here chosen to bring to life some of the more memorable duets of Handel's many operas. Quite apart from chewing over some of the more well-known operas he has chosen some duets from Silla, Sosarme (Per le porte del tormento), Faramondo, Atalanta, Poro and Muzio Scevola, few of which have had decent recordings in the last number of years.

His band is small, one player per part, withe the resultant effect rather to make the duets seems like chamber music. There is a danger in that with duets such as Io t'abbraccio (end of Act 2 Rodelinda) taken out of context that the dramatic moment of the music would be lost. However, by arranging the duets in a sequence (as Curtis writes in the notes) from love's joy through self-doubt and jealousy, back to undying love, the duets out of context sound superb.

Both singers, Patrizia Ciofi (Soprano) and Joyce di Donato (Mezzo) sound thoroughly at home in the idiom of baroque opera, and in fact their cadenzas and ornamentation are delightfully understated, rather than the sort of shrieking 'I can go higher still' of some more lauded performers. I look forward to Curtis' forthcoming recordings of Lotario, Rodelinda and Radamisto, if these performers are to be retained.

In short this is a delightful enterprise showing the genious of Handel in dealing with the most basic of human emotions - love and jealousy. Well done Alan Curtis!

From still waters to fireworks in baroque singing - Duets su
Ingrid Heyn | Melbourne, Australia | 11/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Handel was a master of his medium - his music paints with elegance and soul-stirring emotion upon the canvas of the human heart. His duets often exhibit particular indebtedness to Steffani (truly a genius of duet writing), and they are gorgeous duets indeed!

I note that some other reviewers quibble with a) duets only on this recording; and b) a sense of disjointedness.

Addressing both of those issues, let's admit that any recital disc is going to give some disjointedness in the absolute and literal sense. To take a portion of an opera out of its setting and perform it separately is a sort of amputation, be it an album of arias OR an album of duets. Should singers then avoid putting out solo recordings of Handel arias? I find no reason to come to THAT conclusion - and for the same reason, I have no quarrel at all with the recording of an album of Handel duets.

Of course, to enjoy Handel to the fullest degree, do get full recordings as well... but even in Handel's time, singers would pull specific bits of their roles out of context, perform them separately... so it's a time-honoured practice! Let us simply enjoy the high standard of the music without worrying about context in any recording of arias, duets, trios, or operatic scenes.

Handel's duets vary so much in their shape, melodies, harmonies, rhythms - there's plenty of variety. It comes down to a question of the singers involved having suitable voices, singing appropriately for the style, the playing of the orchestra, and the particular variety of duets chosen.

On all points, this album scores highly! Both Ms Ciofi and Ms Di Donato have beautiful voices, clearly trained in baroque singing, and they have equally clearly put in a lot of work to achieve a lovely blend and similar approach within these duets. What a joy to hear gifted singers perform these duets with such intelligence, emotional involvement and lovely, lovely tone!

This recording is a favourite of mine - not just because I perform many of the duets on this CD with another soprano, but because I am genuinely delighted to hear appropriately performed Handel singing in a duet album. I've found fault with some other duet albums because I consider them under-rehearsed, insufficiently blended, and inappropriately embellished - but this album shows none of those faults, and I am very happy to recommend it highly and without reservation. Beautiful singing, beautiful works - you can scarcely wish for more!"