Australian countertenor David Hansen became a hot new presence on the scene in the mid-2010s with a startlingly clear, powerful soprano voice. He's become enough of a phenomenon that skeptics have come out of the woodwork, pointing out flaws in his armor like the relative weakness of his middle register. It's true enough, and on Rivals there is a slight tend to wait for the big fast numbers while the more sedate scenes play out. But such cavils essentially miss the point. As the title suggests, Rivals: Arias for Farinelli & Co. explores not only music written for the 18th century castrato Farinelli (Carlo Broschi), which has been done before, but also for other singers of the time. This really elucidates the nature of the style: various composers are heard, notably the vastly underrated Leonardo Vinci and Leonardo Leo, adding details that must have been tailor-made for the people who sang them. So here's the thing: for the most part this music hasn't been heard anywhere before. And the corner of the musical universe that it explores is a small one. But Hansen instantly gives it all the outsized personality that it deserves, and that's just not the kind of talent that comes along often. The Academia Montis Regalis under Alessandro de Marchi properly stays out of this major talent's way.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim