Handel: Il Pastor Fido – review

Crowe/Dennis/Manley/La Nuova Musica/Bates
(Harmonia Mundi, two CDs)

Though it followed two of Handel's early operatic masterpieces, Agrippina and Rinaldo, Il Pastor Fido, first performed in London in 1712 and based on one of the most popular plays of the 17th century, is a problematic work. It is deliberately intimate and pastoral, almost a stylistic experiment in evoking an Arcadia that never existed, but it's rather thin on characterisation and dramatic coherence as a result. Handel drastically revised his score for a production in 1734, only retaining eight of the original 34 numbers, and that reworking is the version usually heard today. This is claimed as the world-premiere recording of the original 1712 score, though, in fact, this version was recorded (with a few cuts) as long ago as 1961 and has subsequently been released on CD. Handel completists will doubtless rush to add this performance to their burgeoning collections, but David Bates and his fine young lineup of singers (with Lucy Crowe and Anna Dennis as the lovers, Amarilli and Mirtillo) do little to bolster the work's slender dramatic means; rather than a living, breathing performance, the result is an elegant musical object, as bloodless as a porcelain figurine.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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