Lea Desandre mezzo-soprano, Jupiter, Thomas Dunford
Erato 0 190295 065843

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This is a recital of extracts from 17th- and 18th-century operas (French and Italian) that feature powerful female characters – Amazons of one kind and another. It is also, of course, a showcase for the powerful virtuosity of mezzo Lea Desandre. She is joined by no less than Cecilia Bartoli and Véronique Gens for duets (one each) and there are also a few short instrumental items. These include a performance of Couperin’s L’Amazône by William Christie, to complete the roster of guest stars.

This is an interesting concept, which introduces us to a lot of (to all intents and purposes) unknown music with several world premiere recordings claimed, all of which I am pleased to have heard. But I have multiple reservations about the performance practice on this disc. We hear a chamber ensemble throughout but would not most, if not necessarily all, of these composers have expected an orchestra? Yes, ‘domestic’ versions of operatic excerpts were published but would such an ensemble have included 16’ instruments? Why is there a lute as well as harpsichord in Louis Couperin’s Passacaille? Percussion?! And, as EMR writers so often observe, the singing is unreconstructed modern. Much is impressive in its way, though Ms Desandre is not always fully in control of her highest register. However, I’d like to hear her live in a fully-staged opera.

The booklet notes (in French, English and German) offer interesting comments about the concept but say little specific about the music, nothing about performance practice and nothing about the artists. Full texts and translations are included, however, but overall this is a release which the EMR/HIP community might find hard work.

David Hansell

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