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Handel Operas »
By George Frideric Handel (Georg Friedrich Händel)
Ottone. (HWV 15, London 1723). Harmonia Mundi HMU
907073/75 (3 CDs 1993). Nicholas McGegan, Freiburger
Barockorchester. Ottone: Drew Minter, countertenor; Teofane:
Lisa Saffer, soprano; Emireno: Michael Dean, bass; Gismonda:
Juliana Gondek, soprano; Adelberto: Ralf Popken, countertenor;
Matilda: Patricia Spence, mezzo-soprano. Clearly superior in
nearly every respect to King's recording on Hyperion. Superb,
studio recording, with outstanding balance and recorded sound.
Nicely sung and played, with generally interesting
Ottone. (HWV 15, London 1723). Hyperion CDA 667513 (3
CDs, 1993). Reissued on MHS. Robert King, The King's Consort.
Ottone: James Bowman, countertenor; Teofane: Claron McFadden,
soprano; Gismonda: Jennifer Smith, soprano; Adelberto: Dominique
Visse, countertenor; Emireno: Michael George, bass; Matilda:
Catherine Denley, contralto. Had there been no competition, this
recording would have been welcome, but it fails on all counts in
comparison to the contemporaneous McGegan recording on Harmonia
Mundi. Hyperion's recorded sound is constricted and poorly
balanced. It sounds like a radio broadcast of a live recording.
The performance is similarly mediocre. Many repeats are
virtually unornamented, unless you consider singing softer to
amount to ornamentation. In addition, King substitutes non-HIP
organ continuo for harpsichord in several arias. His
specialization in sacred music is apparent. Hyperion's booklet
is smaller than the HM booklet, with smaller type packed closer
together. Since both contain the same libretto and the same
English translation by Anthony Hicks, the only reason to refer
to the Hyperion booklet would be to follow the tracks. Three of
the singers, Visse, Smith and Bowman, have distinctive voices,
making them instantly identifiable. I find Visse's unusual, high
falsetto timber to be interesting, if not encountered too often.
Smith, on the other hand, has a nasal sound that can be grating,
at least on this recording. (See contra, Silete venti
with Pinnock on DG-Archiv, one of the best Handel vocal
recordings.) Bowman is at his hootiest here, often fading out on
low notes. Since the Hyperion and HM recordings came out
simultaneously, they combined to kill the market and promptly
appeared in cutout bins. As a result, Hyperion did not release
King's recording of Ezio.
Lotti. Teofane (Dresden 1719). Libretto by Pallavicino.
Ottone: Senesino, alto castrato; Teofane: Franceca Cuzzoni, soprano; Emireno:
Giuseppe Maria Boschi, bass; Gismonda: Margherita Durastanti, soprano; Adelberto:
Guetano Berenstadt, alto castrato; Matilda: Anastasia Robinson, contralto.
Winton Dean & J. Merrill Knapp. Handel's Operas, 1704-1726. (Oxford
University Press 1995 (1987)).
R. Strohm, "Handel and his Italian opera texts". Essays on Handel and the
Italian Opera. (Oxford University Press 1985).
Fiona McLauchlan. "Lotti's Teofane (1719) and Handel's Ottone (1723): A
textual and musical study." Music & Letters 78: 349-390 (1997).
Le magazine de l'opera-baroque page on Ottone