Vadoro Pupille Natalie Dessay La

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc is highly attractive.

Cleopatra’s part in Giulio Cesare must be one of the toughest roles in opera literature – but also one of the most grateful. Handel seems to have been uncommonly inspired when he wrote her arias, which says a lot. He was the true professional who rarely produced anything second-rate but far more often surpassed his generally high level. This opera is certainly inspired from beginning to end and is regarded by many not only as Handel’s best opera but the best opera seria ever.

On this disc Natalie Dessay sings eight arias for Cleopatra plus some recitatives to put the arias in context. These are not all the arias Handel wrote for her. In the firstRead more act there are another two besides: Tutto può: Non disperar and Tu la mia stella. On the other hand Dessay includes two arias that Handel wrote but replaced with those normally heard today. Thus Se pietà is followed by Per dar vita, which was Handel’s first thought for that particular scene. He then reworked Per dar vita as the aria for Sesto in the last act. Troppo crudeli (tr. 13) is interesting to hear. It’s a good piece of music but Handel knew a winner when he had composed Piangerò for the third act and it is probably the best known aria in the whole opera.

Emmanuelle Haïm is one of today’s foremost experts on baroque music and together with Le Concert d’Astrée she has built up an impressive discography, which has met with universal acclaim. They play here at pitch A=415 Hz and produce a biting yet transparent sound, demonstrated on their own in a fresh and springy overture, a properly warlike Sinfonia bellica and superb French horns in the sinfonia that precedes the last scene.

The qualities of Natalie Dessay are well known by now and she is in excellent voice here. Her technical command is something to be taken for granted but still there are copious opportunities to marvel at her virtuosity. Da tempeste il legno infranto is as good an example as any.

But Handel doesn’t only require drama and flair, he also demands beauty of tone. Ms Dessay has that as well – and in abundance. Just listen to V’adoro, pupille! So ravishingly beautiful! Piangerò, the noblest of Handel’s arias and is sung here with warmth and sadness, while the fast middle section, where she expresses her wish to trouble the tyrant night and day with her ghost, is intensely vitriolic. The da capo section is stylishly embellished – as in all the arias. A masterly reading.

She is well partnered by Sonia Prina’s Cesare. The Italian contralto has made Handel something of a speciality. Her homepage lists fourteen Handel operas and among them she has sung Giulio Cesare in Lille under the baton of Emmanuelle Haïm. Natalie Dessay and Sonia Prina are nicely contrasted in the final duet.

Giulio Cesare brims over with wonderful music and no opera lover – bar those who can’t stand baroque music – should be without a complete recording. There are several to choose from. But as a complement to that recording this disc is highly attractive.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International
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1.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Aria(s)by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

2.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Tutto può donna vezzosaby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

3.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: V'adoro pupilleby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

4.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Venere bellaby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

5.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Vuo dar vitaby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

6.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Piangerò la sorte miaby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

8.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Da tempeste il legno infrantoby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 

9.

Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Caro! Più amabile beltàby George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert d'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; London, England 

“It’s not that I’m leaving opera,” she told Le Figaro. “It’s that opera is leaving me.” By that, she meant that she was increasingly uncomfortable to be nearing 50 and still playing teenagers. But she had nowhere else to go in the repertory, having never been quite as convincing, vocally or dramatically, in tragic parts like Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor or Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” and lacking the vocal heft to shift to heavier roles.

In many ways, Handel’s Cleopatra has best fit the bill over the past few years, showing off Ms. Dessay’s high-flying coloratura prowess and her more mature side. Last year at the Met, she was game for the role, if vocally ill at ease. On Sunday, in a smaller hall, with a smaller orchestra and a conductor with whom she seems entirely comfortable, she was more persuasive.

Ms. Dessay’s voice is now an exaggerated version of what it was in her heyday, for both better and worse. The floating, bell-like clarity she used to attain on certain notes may, if anything, be even more uncannily lucid now, and her precision in quick-moving runs — like those in the triumphant “Da tempeste” — remains exceptional. But what used to be just a hint of sour thinness in her tone, which you either accepted as a quirk or didn’t, has become more pervasive.

In “V’adoro pupille,” Ms. Dessay lacked a certain measure of sensuality, and in the great lament “Se pietà,” her phrasing was too curt to build emotional momentum. But Ms. Haïm and Le Concert d’Astrée, sounding silky and suave, supported her at every turn, and Ms. Dessay’s voice blended into the instrumental textures in “Piangerò” to ravishing effect.

Mr. Dumaux, who played the villainous Tolomeo opposite Ms. Dessay at the Met last year, was here promoted to the opera’s title role, sounding forceful but without edge as a confident yet sensitive Cesare.

Le Concert d’Astrée was sweet-toned and alert throughout, with crucial solos from the violinist David Plantier and the flutist Sébastien Marq. The ensemble was particularly artful in the Suite in G from Handel’s “Water Music,” a cleverly selected interlude that matched the arias on the program in vivacity and poignancy.

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