Handel: Ezio / Curtis, Prina, Hallenberg, Giustiniani, Gauvin, Andersen, Priante, et al

Album Summary

>Handel, George Frideric : Ezio, HWV 29
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

The next installment in Alan Curtis' award-winning recordings of Handel's operas is a real rarity. Given only five performances in Handel's lifetime, this opera has never received a studio recording until now. This superb cast of Baroque specialists (many featured on previous recordings in this series) bring new life and vigor to Handel's masterful opera. Ann Hallenberg shines as Ezio, a role created by the sensational castrato Senesino.

Gramophone Magazine
Alan Curtis sagely allows Handel's music to speak for itself unhindered by artificial gimmicks: ritornellos are subtle, continuo accompaniment of recitatives is exemplary for its pacing and judgement, and singers declaim their texts with utmost clarity. Overall, this is an excellent and much-needed first complete recording, and confirms that Ezio is a fascinating serious drama.

The Times
Built on a stern libretto, with an initially slow plot, Handel's Ezio flopped spectacularly in 1732. While Curtis's revival with Il Compesso Barocco and choice voices doesn't reveal a lost masterpiece, the music and drama soon heat up. Karina Gauvin is particularly fine as the patrician's daughter who journeys from innocence to outrage, and Ann Hallenberg glows as the Roman general Ezio.

BBC Music Magazine
... a long succession of fine arias offering opportunities for six principals that are fully seized on this occasion. With keenly etched orchestral playing and lucid sound, this is unusually consistent, dramatically motivated performance.

Sunday Times
As Ezio, Ann Hallenberg's serene mezzo contrasts well with Sonia Prina's beefy emperor Valentiniano, while Karina Gauvin's virago-like Fulvia, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani's treacherous, scheming Massimo and Vito Priante's Varo are all outstanding. The drama sizzles and the arias ravish the ear.

The Guardian
...apart from the conflicted Massimo, none of the characters has much psychological depth. It's wonderfully done, though, with Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco admirably capturing its sombre mood and some very flamboyant singing from Karina Gauvin (Fulvia) and Ann Hallenberg (Ezio).

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
Ezio is like a Roman thriller. Those wanting superficial thrills and glamorous wit from their Baroque operas might not know what to make of it, and the original audience in 1732 certainly didn't (it was one of Handel's worst commercial flops). However, it frequently shows the composer at his most masterful.

Alan Curtis sagely allows Handel's music to speak for itself unhindered by artificial gimmicks: ritornellos are subtle, continuo accompaniment of recitatives is exemplary for its pacing and judgement, and singers declaim their texts with utmost clarity. The sole disadvantage is that more passionate music is underplayed and lightweight, which means that sometimes it lacks dramatic punch and expressiveness. For instance, the dance-like courtliness in the overture is elegantly moulded but could do with some fiery intensity, and the final chorus is curiously underdone. So much of the performance is musically meticulous, but it would have flourished with a few more degrees of dramatic heat.

'Ecco alle mie catene', an emotional prison scene aria at the end of Act 2, is sensitively sung by Ann Hallenberg but Il Complesso Barocco sound underpowered; a better synergy between instruments and voice is achieved in 'Se la mia vita'. Fulvia's dazzling aria di bravura 'La mia costanza' is impressive for Karina Gauvin's articulate stylishness and a fantastic cadenza.

Sonia Prina's singing is admirable. Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani's fast runs are a bit dry in the superbly played 'Và! dal furor portata'. The unusual instrumentation for flutes and violette in Onoria's 'Quanto mai felice' is excellently played. Vito Priante sings Varo's splendid trumpet aria 'Già risonar d'intorno' with robust precision (Curtis adds a timpani part). Overall, this is an excellent and much-needed first complete recording, and confirms that Ezio is a fascinating serious drama.

Penguin Guide
The performance...relies on fresh, mainly young voices, cleanly focused...Curtis with his period-performance forces is also fresh and lively, with the acoustic of a theatre nicely caught. A valuable set of an enjoyable rarity.



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Works Details

>Handel, George Frideric : Ezio, HWV 29
  • Performers: Anicio Giustiniani (Voice); Marianne Andersen (Voice); Vito Priante (Bass); Ann Hallenberg (Mezzo Soprano); Sonia Prina (Violin); Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
  • Conductor: Alan Curtis
  • Ensemble: Il Complesso Barocco
  • Running Time: 171 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1732