Motezuma is Vivaldi’s only opera set in the New World. The manuscripts for this rarely performed and rarely heard opera were only rediscovered in 2002 and currently only one CD version exists recorded by Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco. Of the CD recording, BBC Music Magazine wrote: “The instrumentalists of Il Complesso Barocco are on excellent form as indeed is Vivaldi himself in a rewarding score”.
Ercole su’l Termodonte was Vivaldi’s 16th opera, appearing in 1723 in Rome. There was a Papal ban on women appearing on stage at the time and so the opera was sung by seven castrati and a male tenor, the latter singing the title role, Hercules. Portraying either the Amazons of myth or Greek warriors, the castrati must have been quite a scene and made quite a sound. Conducted by a Catholic priest–Vivaldi himself–with red hair, the entire proposition boggles the mind.
Alan Curtis' stellar recording of Alcina, which joins a respectable number of very fine recordings of the opera, is remarkable for the supple liveliness of his conducting and the outstanding performances of the soloists. The elasticity of his performance, leading Il Complesso Barocco, should dispel any misconceptions about Baroque music being rigid and metronomic. The nuanced care with which he brings out the emotional depth of Handel's writing is evident from the first measures of the overture and enlivens the entire opera.
Gluck wrote his opera seria Ezio in 1750 for production in Prague. (In 1762, after the formal and stylistic breakthroughs of Orfeo ed Euridice, he revised the opera for a Vienna production, but it's the original version that's recorded here.) The opera has many of the characteristics of Italian late Baroque opera; it's essentially a series of arias separated by accompanied recitatives, the formula that the composer reacted against in Orfeo. It's not Gluck at his most innovative or original, but it's a fine example of opera seria, with a number of impressive arias and some very expressive recitatives, and it can make quite an impact in a performance as fine as this one.
"L'infedeltà costante" - "Die beständige Untreue", mit diesem Titel haben Anna Bonitatibus und Alan Curtis ihre Haydn-CD umschrieben. Denn um "Untreue" in der einen oder anderen Art geht es bei all den diversen Arien aus Haydns zahlreichen Opern. Die italienische Mezzosopranistin Anna Bonitatibus hat sich Arien aus den Opern La fedeltà premiata, Orlando Palladino, La vera costanza, L'infedeltà delusa, La frascatana, L` isola disabitata und Arianna a Naxos ausgesucht, die Haydn zu Recht als Opernkomponisten "rehabilitieren": Musikalisch abwechslungsreiche, ausdrucksstarke Stücke, die mannigfaltige Facetten von der schlichten Melodie bis hin zu atemberaubenden Koloraturen aufweisen. Eine echte Entdeckung, welche die Sängerin Alan Curtis und sein Complesso Barocco beschwingt präsentieren.
Demofoonte dates from the early Milan years of Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787), long before the radical reform operas for which he is most famous and his break with opera seria and the librettos of Pietro Metastasio. Gluck arrived in the northern Italian city in 1737 and was mentored there by composer Giovanni Battista Sammartini. Though Sammartini primarily composed symphonies and music for the church, Milan boasted a vibrant opera scene, and Gluck soon formed an association with one of the city's up-and-coming opera houses, the Teatro Regio Ducal.
This exciting studio recording is the second project resulting from the collaboration between Marie-Nicole Lemieux Karina Gauvin and conductor and harpsichordist Alan Curtis' award winning Complesso Barocco. Giulio Cesare is one of Handel's most renowned operas and the role of Giulio Cesare is considered to be one of the most beautiful roles in the baroque opera. The full vocal cast is stunning and Alan Curtis shows once again why he is considered one of the world's leading Handel specialists.
Fernando is the abandoned first draft of Handel’s opera Sosarme (performed at the King’s Theatre in February 1732)… Curtis’s pacing and shaping of Handel’s music is consistently subtle, astutely rhetorical and firmly connected to the libretto text. Although it might be possible to explore firmer muscularity and create a more vivid sense of surprise in the quicker music, there is something to be said for Curtis’s shrewd reservation of such effects for when it is truly vital for the drama. For instance, Marianna Pizzolato’s powerful arias “Vado al campo” and “Cuor di madre e cuor di moglie” are potently delivered moments of severe agitated passion that are all the more effective for the sweeter elegance that pervades much of this lovely score.
Supreme master of the Baroque concerto and one of the finest composers of sacred music, Vivaldi is now also being rediscovered as an opera composer of genius. Some credit for this must go to Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, whose performances of Giustino since 1985 have made this colourful and dramatic work the most widely played of Vivaldi's operas in modern times. Giustino contains an endless flow of Vivaldian melodic inspiration and inventive orchestration; the score calls for a psaltery and for birdsong, while the goddess Fortune descends to the tune of Spring from the Four Seasons. This first recording is based on a concert performance in Rotterdam in 2001; the fine cast is headed by Dominique Labelle as the empress Arianna and Francesca Provvisionato as the plough-boy emperor Giustino.
La Susanna, a late oratorio composed in Genoa in 1681, the year before the composer’s death. La Susanna belongs to a popular 17th-century sub-genre termed oratorio erotico because it employed biblical stories concerned with love or the sensual aspect of women. It is typical of the kind of plot that might be used to attract an audience drawn to the prayer halls to be given Bible “instruction” in easily accessible form. The concept was a mark of counter-Reformation propaganda and stories such as those of Judith or Susanna were popular not only in music, but also literature and painting. Indeed, the cover of the present set is illustrated by a fine painting by Artemisia Gentileschi depicting the beautiful naked Susanna recoiling from the gaze of the two leering elders.