Saturday, October 23, 2010

Handel - Opera Duets - Piau, Mingardo, Alessandrini, Concerto Italiano


I have only utter praise for this superb recording of duets and arias by Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo, backed by Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano. Handel opera fans are well acquainted with soprano Sandrine Piau, based on her "disc of the year"-quality performance of Handel arias a few years ago (Sandrine Piau - Handel Opera Seria) and her captivating acting/singing in Giulio Cesare and Serse (check out YouTube). Her radiant soprano voice and seemingly effortless singing are just stunning. Sara Mingardo is one of today's rare true contraltos, whose low register is well suited to the many roles Handel wrote for castratos. Mingardo uses somewhat more vibrato than Piau, but she controls it well.

The arias and duets on this CD are carefully selected gems from ten lesser known Handel operas. As conductor Alessandrini explains: "We were careful to avoid the best-known titles and to maintain contrast from one number to another. And we kept the recitatives, so as to place the characters in the dramatic context of the opera and set the dominant mood of each aria".

The result is magnificent. Six moving duets, six solo arias (the three by Piau are highlights), all preceded by short recitatives, and two vibrant orchestral overtures make for a extraordinary CD. It remains amazing how Handel achieves emotion by relatively simple means. The Concerto Italiano's playing is as marvelous as Piau's and Mingardo's singing. A must-have disc for Handel opera lovers.--Amazon


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