Handel’s Alcina – Joyce DiDonato/Il Complesso Barocco

0 of 5 stars

Alcina – Opera in three acts to an anonymous libretto based on Riccardo Broschi’s L’isola di Alcina after Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto

Alcina – Joyce DiDonato
Ruggiero – Maite Beaumont
Bradamante – Sonia Prina
Morgana – Karina Gauvin
Oronte – Kobie van Rensburg
Melisso – Vito Priante
Oberto – Laura Cherici

Il Complesso Barocco
Alan Curtis

Recorded September 2007 in Chiesa di Sant’ Agostino, Tuscania

Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: July 2009
477 7374 (3 CDs)
Duration: 3 hours 23 minutes



The title role is notoriously demanding, so this recording’s great coup is securing the formidable talents of Joyce DiDonato to play the eponymous enchantress. DiDonato is in her element, her sumptuous voice fully embodying the vast range of emotions, not to mention vocal pyrotechnics. The onslaught of fury unleashed in her Act Three aria against the object of her love – the hitherto bewitched knight Ruggiero – pins the listener back with exhilarating force; while the central section contrasts with subdued, plaintive heartache. DiDonato brings an intense despair and beauty to Alcina’s final aria, ‘Mi restano le lagrime’ (Only tears remain to me) – making us truly care for the fate of the sorceress, now a powerless and solitary figure.

If not quite in DiDonato’s league, the rest of the cast is still highly impressive. Among the many enjoyable highlights, Ruggiero’s Act Two farewell to Alcina’s island is nobly and sensitively sung by Maite Beaumont. Karina Gauvin imparts a joyful bounce to Morgana’s rosy ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’, and displays superb control and a well-integrated range in the sorrowful ‘Credete al mio dolore’. As Alcina’s general, Oronte, tenor Kobie van Rensburg brings a dignified sweep to the intimately sung ‘Un momento di contenti’.

Experienced baroque exponent Alan Curtis has now built up a substantial Handel opera catalogue for Archiv. This latest entry is every bit as refined and detailed as we have come to expect, with nuanced playing from the ‘period’-instruments of Il Complesso Barocco. Solos, such as the melancholic recorders in Ruggiero’s ‘Mio bel tesoro’ and the opulent mournful cello in ‘Credete al mio dolore’, delight. It often feels as though Curtis’s approach is a little too leisurely and lacking in theatricality but, maybe, that is a good thing as far as repeated listening is concerned. The recorded sound is crisp and excellently clear and the libretto and translations are included

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