Excellent New Version of One of Handel's Most Beautiful Oper
Nicholas A. Deutsch | New York, NY USA | 03/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Amadigi di Gaula (1715) was the fifth Italian opera that Handel wrote for London, and the last before he took up his duties for the newly formed Royal Academy. Like Rinaldo and Teseo, which preceded it, Amadigi is a "magic opera", a genre that always brought out the best in the composer; like them too it features a love-sick sorceress as a central figure, a character-type he was to return to with equally memorable results in Alcina (1735). (His remaining "magic opera" Orlando has a benevolent male sorceror in place of a malevolent female one.)
Amadigi is an absolutely wonderful piece, with a memorable score of great freshness, invention and youthful vitality - not a single weak number. There are two duets, an onstage death scene (very rare) and a ghost scene, all outstanding. Altho' there are a few puzzling moments in the plot (due to the libretto's compression from a 5-act French original), the story and conflicts are clear and the characters well-drawn. And with essentially only 4 characters and at 2 1/2 hours in length, it's one of Handel's most concise and intimate stage works.
This new recording, only the second so far, is excellent, and certainly fully equal in quality to Marc Minkowski's fine 1989 version (Erato). Perhaps the new one has a slight edge in sheer theatrical excitement, but the difference is marginal. Unlike Minkowski, conductor Eduardo Lopez Banzo has cast a countertenor (rather than a woman) as Dardanus, and this may matter to some listeners. (The role was originally sung by a woman, tho' a castrato took over later.) I should also note that on the new recording one aria, Oriana's sublime Siciliana "Gioie, venite in sen" loses its da capo (no doubt to fit the piece on 2 CDs - Banzo's overall timings run slightly longer than Minkowski's) and Melissa's "Io godo, scherzo e rido" is heard in a different setting from Minkowski's: similar in length and tone, but in duple rather than triple time. There is a good new English translation of the Italian text - Erato reprinted the Italian-English libretto from the 1715 premiere - as well as French and Spanish versions. Excellent sound. A fine achievement all round, strongly recommended."
Excellent performance of another beautiful Handel opera-
Todd Nolan | Seattle, WA USA | 03/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very well done recording of one of Handel's 'magic' operas. The ensemble Al Ayre Espanol specializes in Baroque music, so this Amadigi was a perfect match for them and for Handel fans who will probably want this even if they have the 1980s recording with Bernarda Fink, Natalie Stutzman, Eiddwen Harrhy, Jennifer Smith and conducted by Minkowski. That was a fantastic recording, and so is this. Instead of two sopranos & two mezzos for the leads, this Ambroisie CD set goes with a counter-tenor (Jorid Domenech as Dardano), a mezzo (Maria Riccarda Wesseling as Amadigi), and two sopranos (Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as sorceress Melissa and Elena de la Merced as Orianna). Wesseling and Rostorf-Zamir have performed and recorded Handel before (Teseo, Floridante, recital discs with Handel arias) and Merced has sung baroque and bel canto roles with major opera houses the last couple of years. She's very good as Orianna, and I hope she does more Handel in the future. Rostorf-Zamir and Wesseling are very good, and Merced's singing is meltingly beautiful. The Al Ayre group can match up with the best of the baroque chamber ensembles out there. Thorough and attractive booklet/libretto makes this one an easy recommendation.
Excellent chivalric production.
Anna Shlimovich | Boston, MA United States | 11/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As previous reviewers noted, this is an excellent overall recording, with great singing and conducting. Again, we were fortunate enough in Boston to listen to this opera live, and although conducting and period instruments were excellent, the singing was variable, and Amadigi on this recoding is absolutely perfect.
It was interesting to get acquainted with the Knight Amadis, whose image inspired Cervantes. However, his character is just as selfish and shallow as that of Tancredi, a hero of Rossini's opera. But of course, these stories and characters are not made to be taken seriously, and exist only to support the most beautiful music.
One can hear that Amadigi is still an early Handel's opera, however alreay genius. Yet his later masterpieces, as Hercules and Semele are more balanced.
Overall, it is a highly recommended recording."