CD: Handel: Arias; DiDonato/Les Talens Lyriques/Rousset

(Virgin Classics)

Handel recitals, particularly by star mezzos, have proliferated of late. The latest divas to tackle him are Joyce DiDonato and Vesselina Kasarova, and while each presents us with a strikingly original view of his music, their albums are chiefly notable for the challenges they throw to our preconceptions of the singers themselves. We have come to regard DiDonato as a rising star and to consider Kasarova as past her best. Yet Kasarova's recital is the finer of the two. There are several reasons for this, not least the programming.

DiDonato's album is entitled Furore, which means "fury" or "rage", and what she presents us with is a succession of characters throwing wobblers. It's a clever concept, since it gets us away from the idea that recitals always have to be about love. The problems derive from the fact that one Handelian tantrum sounds very much like another. Anyone approaching DiDonato for the first time by way of this disc would take away the impression that her principal abilities consist in hurling coloratura around like weaponry and snarling a lot. We know her to be capable of more than that, though on the rare occasions when she sings something slow and reflective, the results are curiously bland. Ariodante's Scherza Infida, for instance, though beautiful, is short on grief and pain. Her conductor, Christophe Rousset, also sounds occasionally ill at ease. He's something of a sensualist, and a bit of a mischief maker. Hissy fits aren't really his thing, so there's not much here that shows him or his band, Les Talens Lyriques, at their best.

Contributor

Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

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