Xavier Sabata / Il Pomo d'Oro / Riccardo Minasi

Handel: Bad Guys

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The castrato in Italian opera of the early 18th century had vocal power that was often associated with heroic roles, but Handel wrote several memorable villains for the voice type as well. Indeed, using the castrato's star quality to add depth to his bad guys was one facet of his operatic genius, and the idea of collecting a group of these arias is good enough to recommend this album even apart from the vocal gifts of Spanish countertenor Xavier Sabata. And those gifts are considerable. Sabata is a true operatic countertenor, somewhat in the vein of Philippe Jaroussky (to whose album of Vivaldi heroic arias this release makes a fine companion). In addition to power and a consistently creamy tone, he has the interpretive chops to put across the emotional complications of these arias, many of which have a delicious mixture of seduction and longing: they cast the bad guy in the role of romantic pursuer. There are a few well-known pieces in here (such as those from Giulio Cesare and perhaps Ariodante), but most of the program is drawn from obscure operas, and Sabata has definitely pointed the way toward bringing them alive. The accompanimental work from the historical-instrument group Il Pomo d'Oro under Riccardo Minasi is both technically superb and fully participatory in the dramatic characterization, and the engineering, from a convent in the northern Italian town of Lonigo, exposes a venue that other recording-makers would do well to check out: it's warm, clear, and very kind to the orchestral strings. The graphics associated with the project are of just the kind needed to draw in new listeners to this kind of recording. In all, an original and superbly executed vocal recital.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:46
2 4:10
3 2:53
Amadigi di Gaula
4 5:27
5 3:51
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
6 1:50
Ottone, re di Germania
7 4:06
8 4:52
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
9 3:32
10 4:19
11 4:35
Amadigi di Gaula
12 10:34
blue highlight denotes track pick