The Power of Love: Arias from Handel Operas

Amanda Forsythe soprano, Apollo’s Fire, Jeannette Sorrell
69:20
Avie AV2350
Music from Alcina, Almira, Ariodante, Giulio Cesare, Orlando, Partenope, Rinaldo, Terpsichore, Teseo & Xerxes

This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc. Amanda Forsythe has a bright, agile and flexible soprano, at home equally in the passionate music for Almira or Armida (Rinaldo), the dramatic depths and heights of Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare) and the teasing cynicism of Atalanta (Serse). She displays formidable technique, for example in the precise semiquaver runs in the B section of ‘Piangero’ and also in the remarkable range of vocal colour she brings to Agilea’s deceptively simple continuo-accompanied ‘Amarti si vorrei’ which (as so often with Handel) packs an overwhelming emotional punch.

Apollo’s Fire, under the able baton of Jeannette Sorrell, provide exquisitely-judged orchestral support; they are allowed to shine in their own right in the rarely-heard ballet music from Terpsichore, added as a prologue to the 1734 revival of Il Pastor Fido. I particularly enjoyed the luscious orchestration of the Air (track 10), with flutes and pizzicato bass, and the kaleidoscopic Chaconne.

One’s only minor caveat, faced with music-making of this superb quality, is that the programme is so wide-ranging – it would have been even more impressive to have concentrated on the roles for one or two of Handel’s top sopranos, or even to have heard Terpsichore in full; Handel in context is nearly always even more satisfying than Handel in chunks. And perhaps then one would also have the pleasure of anticipating further similar issues!

Alastair Harper

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