All in all, a marvellous solo album debut.
Charlotte Gardner 2008-11-28
Fury is not a subject that many singers would choose for their first solo aria disc; it doesn't exactly promise a relaxing listen. Plus, if you were looking to be noticed, Handel arias would perhaps not be the best choice in an anniversary year when CD reviewers' desks are buckling under the weight of a thousand and one recordings of his works. However, American mezzo Joyce Didonato has scored a triumph with this performance which not only shows her phenomenal technical talent, but verily crackles with dramatic fire.
The arias are drawn from Serse, Teseo, Guilo Cesare, Admeto, Hercules, Semele, Imeneo, Ariodante, and Amadigi, so a comprehensive selection. They were recorded live with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques at concert performances in April 2008 at Brussels' Théâtre de la Monnaie. It needs to be said that this is no opportunistic anniversary recording; Handel’s music has featured strongly in Didonato's onstage and recording career to date, including stage performances of the title roles of Alcina and Ariodante and a Barbican performance as Hercules' wife which earned her a nomination for a Laurence Olivier Award. Didonato's evident excitement for this music is evident in her note in the CD booklet, and the recording itself is stunning throughout. Technically, she can't be bettered. Her legato is exceptionally smooth, particularly notably in Ariodante's ''Scherza infida'', her colouratura is dazzling, her high notes perfect even in the heat of passion, and her dynamic range is a joy. It should go without saying that Didonato is a brilliant actress, as you don't do a disc of mad scene arias if drama isn't your forte, but it is still worth drawing attention to. Her portrayal of Dejanira's grief at the supposed death of Hercules is achingly convincing, not to mention beautiful. When anger is the prevalent emotion things become particularly exciting; as Handel’s contemporary, William Congreve, once wrote, ''hell has no…fury like a woman scorned'', and Didonato spits venomous anger like there was no tomorrow. She doesn't fall shy of lending an element of harshness – almost ugliness – to her voice for the odd phrase either. All in all, a marvellous solo album debut.