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Handel: Alessandro / Max Emanuel Cencic, Julia Lezhneva, Karina Gauvin, George Petrou

Conductor Ensemble

Notes & Reviews:

Handel's ninth major opera for London, Alessandro was written as a showcase for the "Rival Queens", the two famous Italian sopranos - Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni - whose supposed enmity, both personal and professional, not only generated good publicity for Handel's latest opera but also added extra dramatic frisson to the two divas' jealous clashes on stage.

Still something of a rarity even in this heyday of the Handel revival, Alessandro has only ever been recorded twice before over the past 30 years, and never previously with such a starry trio of singers in the three lead roles.

Marking the start of an exciting new partnership with the sensational Croatian counter-tenor Max Emanuel Cencic (and his company Parnassus Arts) that will involve both solo and ensemble recording, this new recording stars Ceneiae himself as Alexander the Great (a role originally sung by the legendary castrato Senesino), with acclaimed French Canadian soprano Karian Gauvin as the Scythian princess LIsaura, and the sensational young Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva - making her debut appearance as Decca's latest exciting solo signing - in the role of Roxana, the Persian princess who finally wins the conqueror's heart.

Recorded at the Megaron concert hall in Athens, this new recording of Handel's classical epic features the period instruments of Armonia Atenea conducted by George Petrou, the brilliant young Baroque specialist whose previous recordings of Handel operas (Oreste, Arianna in Creta, Tamerlano, Giulio Cesare and the pasticcio Alesandro Severo) have won numerous international awards.

Handel's Alessandro is practically a comic opera despite having as its hero the not-particularly-amusing Alexander the Great. Rather than focusing on his warrior image, the plot centers on two women who love him and vie for his affection; he manages to keep them both enchanted until he chooses one at the opera's close. Its premiere in 1726 in London was meant not only to showcase the greatest castrato of his time.

BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012
These discs should come with an asbestos slipcase, so incendiary is the performance they convey...Cencic is imperious hot-bloodedness personified...perhaps best of all is Karina Gauvin's utterly disarming Lisaura, her coloratura dazzling, her bright soprano full of personality...Just as thrilling is the visceral playing...Pert and incisive, the overture crackles with energy...A revelation.

Gramophone Magazine, December 2012
Petrou offers panache and fizzy unpredictablity...[Cencic] is clearly not going to play second fiddle to his rival queens...This is an essential purchase just for the infectiously joyful performance of Rossane's 'Brilla nell'alma'...Armonia Atenea's playing is refreshingly free from formulaic complacency.


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