The program on this release by baritone Matthew Rose is innovative and useful in a couple of different ways. First, although performers have sometimes tried to bring 18th century opera to life by programming arias written for specific singers, this has usually been applied to countertenors. They were generally the stars, it's true, but they weren't the only ones. The Italian comic baritone Francesco Benucci was one of the leads of Joseph II's Italian opera company, the original Figaro, and the original Leporello in Don Giovanni in the Vienna premiere (the second production).
The magnificent Christopher Purves performs a recital of Handel’s bass arias. This unique collection demonstrates the range and brilliance of Handel’s writing for this voice, featuring a selection from Italian and English operas, English classical drama, Biblical oratorios, literary odes and a masque. Handel’s endlessly imaginative gift for characterization is fully explored here, with Purves commanding an extraordinary emotional and technical range from the buffo blustering of Polyphemus in Acis and Gatalea to the loving musings of Abinoam in ‘Tears, such as tender fathers shed’ from the oratorio Deborah.
British countertenor Iestyn Davies is one of the fastest rising stars on the concert and opera circuit. Following his highly acclaimed recording of Porpora cantatas, he returns for a second solo album with Hyperion, a selection of arias written for Gaetano Guadagni. Italian-born Guadagni was the first ‘modern’ castrato, famed all over Europe for the lyric purity of his voice and his powerful, naturalistic acting style. Not only did he enjoy a close artistic relationship with Handel, who nurtured Guadagni’s voice to fit the alto roles in his English oratorios, but he effectively created the role of Orpheus in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera he thoroughly made his own. Here, Iestyn Davies is joined again by the renowned period-instrument band Arcangelo, directed by Jonathan Cohen.
Es ist üblich geworden, dass aufstrebende Countertenöre versuchen, mit dem Repertoire berühmter Kastraten des 18. Jahrhunderts auf sich aufmerksam zu machen. Der aus St. Petersburg stammende Dmitry Egorov hat sich dafür Nicolo Grimaldi alias Nicolini ausgesucht: ein Sänger, der seine Karriere als Sopranist unter Alessandro Scarlatti in Neapel startete und seine nachhaltigsten Erfolge als Altist und Hauptdarsteller in Händels Londoner Opern feierte…
Caffarelli, castrato assoluto, was a famed rival to the more famous Farinelli. Born Gaetano Majorano in Bitonto in 1710 - he was to die in Naples in 1783 - he studied with his rival’s teacher, Nicola Porpora. He travelled across Europe, singing in the most prestigious opera houses, earning huge amounts and behaving exceptionally badly. His one season in London in 1737-38 singing for Handel was, however, a resounding failure and it’s to the repertoire of the Naples School that this disc turns in order to present arias most associated with this most touchy, querulous and downright rude castrato of the eighteenth-century.
– Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International.