Handel's Imeneo, an opera almost contemporaneous with Messiah, has received few performances ever since Messiah librettist Charles Jennens slammed it as "the worst of all Handel's compositions" while still allowing that it contained some good tunes. The work exists in two versions; Handel attempted to rescue the opera that bombed in its London premiere by cutting arias and inserting new material, some of it borrowed from other works. It is this second version, premiered in Dublin, that is recorded here. Conductor Fabio Biondi extols it in his notes, but the earlier version also has its virtues, including a more coherent plotline involving the Greek maiden Rosmene, who has to pick either her true love Tirinto or her rescuer Imeneo (Hymen, the god of love on whose story the libretto is based).
"…their instrumental contributions are always judicious. The brooding yet lively performance of the magnificent overture sets the tone for a performance which frequently brings out the inventive genius of Handle's writing. The pacing and rhetoric of the music is intelligently delivered throughout the performance, and (…) the cast is remarkably excellent: Joyce DiDonato's silvery singing is beautiful, stylish, dramatically astute yet unforced; her first contributions are matched by comparable quality from the light-voiced Sharon Rostorf-Zamir; Vito Priante smoulders with menacing villainy as Oronte; Roberta Invernizzi navigates the role of the disguised hero Timante with style and charm, and combines to wonderful effect with Rostorf-Zamir in the spellbinding duet "Fuor di periglio". Curtis certainly reveals that "Floridante" is a compelling and richly rewarding opera, and Handelians should not hesitate to add this to their collection." ~Grammophone
…Yet these are not fragile or rarefied renditions, for Oberlinger and her companions are quite vigorous in the Allegro movements; the long, lyrical lines in the Larghettos and Adagios are always solidly supported through the soloist's unerring ornamentation; and the accompaniment is fully realized and strongly characterized, distributed throughout the works to a variety of basso continuo instruments. The illustrated booklet includes an informative essay on the recorder's history and Handel's music by Gerhard Braun, and the recording is absolutely clear in details and natural in reproduction. This disc is highly recommended.