The past few years have been a boom time for fans of Handel?s glorious vocal music. The energetic Handel revival continues this year (the 250th anniversary of the composer?s death) with Furore, a new release on Virgin Classics by the superb mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato. She is accompanied on her tumultuous journey through the travails of vengeful Handelian heroes and heroines by Les Talens Lyriques — an excellent baroque orchestra conducted by Christophe Rousset — whose fiery, impeccable playing compliments DiDonato?s rich, voluptuous voice, rapid-fire coloratura and expressive use of messa di voce. DiDonato?s anguish in these arias of heartbreak and betrayal is so palpable that you might wonder if she needed a therapist after such an outpouring of grief. The fourteen selections include a passionate rendition of “Ira, sdegni, et furore?O stringeró nel sen,” Medea?s jealous lament from Teseo. DiDonato also illuminates Alceste?s bitter envy in “Gelosia, spietata Aletto” from Admeto. Her voice — with its bright and powerful high notes and dark lower range — cascades effortlessly through runs of coloratura flourishes. Other selections include “Hence, Iris hence away” and “Scherza infida” from Ariodante. DiDonato poignantly expresses a muted grief in Dejanira?s “There in myrtle shades reclined,” one of several arias from Hercules on the disc. The shelves of Handel lovers might already be crammed with recent discs by Vivica Genaux, Danielle de Niese, and the remarkable mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson but DiDonato?s contribution deserves a place of honor.
About the Author
Vivien Schweitzer is a Manhattan-based music critic, reporter and pianist. She regularly contributes classical music reviews and features to The New York Times and also writes about music for The Economist and The Gramophone, as well as many other publications.