- Ottone, re di Germania, opera, HWV 15
After a long period of neglect, Handel's 1719 opera "Ottone" has attracted renewed attention from historical-performance groups. The opera deals with episodes from the life of Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor in the 10th century, a topic so obscure that even for an 18th century audience an "argument" had to be attached to the libretto by way of background information. The opera was highly successful in Handel's own time, perhaps less for its musical value than for the always fun news stories about the stars in Handel's orbit; this time the feature was soprano Francesca Cuzzoni, who refused to sing the aria "Falsa imagine" until Handel threatened to throw her out a window. Cuzzoni's character Teofane is sung by soprano Lauren Snouffer, whose rather silvery tone makes a nice contrast with the lush Ann Hallenberg as Gismonda and countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic in the title role, originally sung by the mighty countertenor Senesino. That's what you want in this work, where the procession of similarly shaped arias could get tiresome without singers who help you imagine how the singers originally sounded. The orchestral accompaniment by the Swiss-based group Il Pomo d'Oro, which specializes in little-known Baroque opera, is a plus: lively, even edgy, and well coordinated with the singers. Recommended for Handel fans.