Thursday 10 October 2013

Aci, Galatea et Polifemo

This new recording of Handel's Aci, Galatea et Polifemo  represents the final volume in Fabio Bonizzoni's survey of Handel's Italian cantatas. The disc was recorded with soprano Roberta Invernizzi, who has appeared on many of the previous discs, mezzo-soprano Blandine Stakiewicz and bass Lisandro Abadie and Bonizzoni's group La Risonanza.

Handel's serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo was part of a group of works by a variety of composers written for the wedding of Tolomeo Saverio Gallio, Duke of Alvito in Naples. The text is by Nicola Giuvo the secretary of Aurora, Duchess of Laurenzana who was the bride's aunt and who seems to have been the prime mover in commissioning the work. Though the subject matter might seem, to us, rather odd for a wedding, Giuvo's texts for the various pieces seem to have all dealt with ill-fated couples from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The work must be have been deemed a success at its premiere, as it was used for two further weddings, that of the Duchess of Laurenzana's son in 1711 and of the daughter of the then Hapsburg Viceroy in 1713.

Handel, of course, returned to the subject in 1718 during his years at Cannons, but Acis and Galatea has virtually no music in common with Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. But Handel did re-use the music, albeit in other works including Il Pastor Fido, Teseo, Poro, Rinaldo, Sosarme, Debora, Atalanta and Joshua. When he revived Acis and Galatea in 1732 in a larger scale oratorio version, Handel introduced arias from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo.

There is no overture in the surviving manuscript, the work starts with a duet for Aci (Roberta Invernizzi) and Galatea (Blandine Stakiewicz). Here we come to an interesting point in casting, the man is the higher voice and in fact in character Galatea seems to be more resilient than Aci. Invernizzi and Stakiewicz blend well in the opening duet, with a lovely intertwining of voices. Stakiewicz has rather a plangent voice, quite distinctive in timbre but she is very expressive. In her opening aria, with lovely oboe and cello solos she demonstrates this with aplomb. Invernizzi by contrast displays a lovely bright sound, dramatic where necessary and in her opening aria has some nice duetting with the oboe.

Stakiewicz displays her brilliance in passagework in her second aria Benche tuoni, she is joined by some lively recorders in S'agita in mezzo all'onde and is interestingly plangent in Se m'ami a caro. Her final aria, Del mar fra l'onde brings back the brilliant passsagework contrasting with a slow middle section.

Invernizzi's second aria, Dell'auila l'artigli sees the soprano accompanied by little more than a cello. It is quite an athletic piece and in Invernizzi's hands comes over well. Qui l'augel da piant in pianta is a simile aria involving birds, so we get a solo oboe and plenty of trills from Invernizzi. The whole thing dances lightly and is a complete delight. Invernizzi's final aria is just a simple line over repeated string chords, the sort of aria at which Handel could excel, making much out of little. Invernizzi sings it very affectingly (it depicts Aci dying and talks about his soul departing).

There is little real action, the work was not intended to be staged, but the character of Polifemo (Lisandro Abadie) is introduced quite early and with him we get some stunning effects. Handel wrote the part for a bass with an astonishing range, from low D to top A. Here it is sung with creditable aplomb by Lisandro Abadie, who will be familiar to London concert goers from his appearances at the London Handel Festival. He does not disappoint here and whilst his low D's are hardly over resonant, he is able to use his voice admirably over the who range. We get quite a lot of Polifemo, he has five arias (nicely balancing Galatea's five and Aci's four). In his first aria Abadie is joined by some glorious trumpets and the whole rather made me want to dance. Abadie brings a suitable swagger to his third arias, Precipitoso nel mar che fremo and is outstanding in the huge arpeggios in Fr l'ombre e gli orrori. Polifemo has the last word with a stunning accompanied recitative before the final terzetto.

One of the joys of the work is the two terzettos which Handel introduced. The first, Provera lo sdegno mio sets the two upper voices in concert, against the bass voice, almost as if it was an unequal duet. Handel follows this with a very dramatic recitative, which the singers relish. The second duet is similar in that the two upper voices have a lovely romantic duet whilst Polifemo rails in recitative like phrases. There is one final terzetto at the close but this is far closer in style to the coro of one of Handel's Italian operas.

Throughout the singers are finely accompanied by the members of La Risonanza and we get some lovely solos. Bonizzoni directs with clear affection and brings out the lively dancing rhythms of the score.

The disc comes with a bonus track at the end, the original duet ending to Clori, Tirsi et Fileno which Handel later replaced with a trio. Even with the bonus track the set is a little short (each disc lasts 45 minutes).

There is full text and translations plus an informative article on the music and its historical background.

If you have the other discs from this series then you will definitely want this one. Even if you haven't, it makes a delightful introduction to Handel's Italian period.

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) - Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
Aci - Roberta Invernizzi (soprano)
Galatea - Blanine Staskiewicz (mezzo-soprano)
Polifemo - Lisandro Abadie (bass)
La Risonanza
Fabio Bonizzoni (harpsichord and direction)
Recorded in Saint Michel en Thierache, France, 25-30 June 2013
GLOSSA GCD 921515 2CDs [45.11, 45.10]
Handel - Aci, Galatea e Polifemo; Roberta Invernizzi, Blandine Staskiewicz, Lisandro Abadie
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Aug 13 2013
Rating: 4.5

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1 comment:

  1. A fabulous album, Invernizzi is the most accomplished Handelian singer alive, lets hope Bonizzoni is planing more Albums with this sublime Lady.


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