Regula Mühlemann

Cleopatra: Baroque Arias

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Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII is one of the most compelling figures of antiquity, so it's only natural that her tragic story would be explored in many operas, especially in Baroque works that served as showcases for vocal pyrotechnics and emotive performances. Composers have long recognized Cleopatra's erotic appeal and mystery, and the depictions by George Frederick Handel, Johann Adolf Hasse, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Antonio Vivaldi, among others, have resulted in stunning parts that give singers ample opportunities to display their talents. Indeed, the stellar soprano Regula Mühlemann seems ideally suited to portray Cleopatra, both for her dramatic appearance and her powerful yet pure voice, which by itself makes this collection of operatic arias a delightful experience. The opening selection from Carl Heinrich Graun's opera Cesare e Cleopatra may be unfamiliar to most listeners, but Mühlemann's sparkling performance is memorable and thrilling for the brilliance of her roulades and the precision of her ornaments. Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto is undoubtedly the best-known opera excerpted here, and the dramatic treatment he gave to Cleopatra's "Se pietà di me non sentí" is deeply affecting, so little in the way of flashy technique is needed to make an impression. Similar in dramatic power and poignant feeling are Hasse's "Quel candido armellino" and Alessandro Scarlatti's "Vò goder senza contrasto," both from operas titled Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra, and Mühlemann's expressive control effectively conveys Cleopatra's emotions with credible pathos. The accompaniment by La Folia Barockorchester under Robin Peter Müller creates a wonderful period sound and mood, though this is plainly Mühlemann's star vehicle, and together they make this an exciting double portrait of an ancient queen and a rising superstar. Highly recommended.

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