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From Handel's Orlando, we hear arias written for the castrato, Santi Francesco Bernardi, known as Senesino (1686-1758). 'Fammi combattere mostri e tifei' ('Tell me to fight monsters and giants') begins the olympiad of bravura singing [listen -- track 1, 2:11-3:14]. It is followed by the great mad scene 'Ah, stigie larve' ('Ah, shades of the Styx') in which the rather melodramatic accompaniment is much more prominent than was common at the time. Labadie's musicians are easily up to the work's demand, however, and they play its long graceful lines in pristine eighteenth century style.

Handel's Alcina is represented by Ruggiero's aria, 'Sta nell'Ircana pietosa tana' ('In her rocky Hyrcanian lair prowls an angry tiger') [listen -- track 3, 3:22-4:08]. Genaux begins with a simple line but soon adds a tasteful filligree of coloratura. The section concludes with Handel's cantata Splenda l'alba in oriente ('The dawn shines in the east') which praises virtue and St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

When Genaux sings the recitative 'Tu, armonica Cecilia' ('You, harmonious Cecilia') she declaims with excellent diction, and in her interpretation of the aria that follows, 'la virtute è un vero nume' ('Virtue is a true god'), she adds some wonderful low trills. She only slows down long enough to provide a bit of respite before pulling out all the stops for the last intricately decorated rendition of the melody [listen -- track 6, 0:43-1:32].

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Copyright © 31 December 2006 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA


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