Scherza Infida forms the centrepiece of Kasarova's disc, and her agonized performance has the wider range of colour and mood than DiDonato's. Her programme focuses on arias written for Giovanni Carestini, one of Handel's favourite castratos. It gives her the finer music, the greater opportunities for subtle dramatic display, and allows her both to do what she does best and to avoid the mannerisms that have marred her recent performances. Anyone who recently heard her in Matilde di Shabran at Covent Garden could not help but notice the forced sound of her chest register and the strain at the top of her voice. Here, there's nothing that takes her into the stratospheres for long, while those foggy, baritonal lower tones are used sparingly and effectively. Her conductor is Alan Curtis, a more exacting Handelian than Rousset, which may have something to do with it. There's a preponderance of slow arias, which were Carestini's forte, but this is singing of great nobility and expressive power, accompanied by instrumental work of exceptional dignity from Il Complesso Barocco. Deeply touching and highly recommended.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss