G. F. Handel
Semele, Hercules, Partenope, Atalanta…
Christiane Karg, soprano
Romina Basso, mezzosoprano
Il Complesso Barocco
Alan Curtis, conductor
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 2016
It is easy to guess why this album is entitled Mitologia (“mythology”) after you glance over the tracklist, entirely devoted to Georg Friedrich Handel’s mythological operas: Il Parnasso in festa, Semele, Hercules, Apollo e Dafne, Atalanta, Arianna in Creta and Partenope.
This is the last recording of conductor Alan Curtis, who leads Il Complesso Barocco, which he founded in 1979. Curtis conducts with the usual refinement and energy, which give his music a silvery, unmistakable sound, and his tempi are carefully balanced, to avoid any unpleasant impression of anxiety. He performs two delicious “solo moments”, the Overture and Gavotte from Semele, placed as an intermezzo in the middle of the album.
The two singers of Mitologia are a new rising star, soprano Christiane Karg, and a veteran of the repertoire, mezzosoprano Romina Basso.
I have listen to many recording by Christiane Karg in the last year (I reviewed both her Nozze di Figaro and her album devoted to Lieder by the Schumanns and Brahms) and this time too I have to praise her beautiful, light voice and to notice some little defects in a generally good performance. As I noted in her Schumann-Brahms album, she is more amiable in the slower, delicate arias rather than in the faster ones. Her agilities are not always immaculate (in her solo aria No, no, I’ll take no less from Semele and in the duet from Arianna in Creta) and sometimes it seems that she has not found a clear interpretative path, but she manages to be charming in Come Zephyrs (again from Semele). These are obviously things that time and experience will remedy and I do not doubt that this will happen.
Mezzosoprano Romina Basso has a sonorous, apparently enormous voice (I say “apparently” because sometimes the singer’s voice is too huge in comparison to the orchestra and thus I suspect a calculated use of microphones) and is remarkable for her easy coloratura and the passion of her interpretation. It is astonishing to listen to her fluent singing and her secure breath control and the only defect I have to notice is a not clear diction in the pieces in English language, as Where shall I fly? from Hercules (there are too many sibilant “s”) and some strange accents.
In the end, Mitologia is an enjoyable recording, where some weaknesses do not matter very much when they are compared to Handel’s beautiful music and to the effective and suitable performance given to it.