The fact that the role of Handel's Cleopatra includes enough music to fill out a CD, and that, combined with the music's demands for immense virtuosity and versatility, makes it a daunting challenge and Natalie Dessay is impressive in her account of these excerpts. Dessay's singing is not entirely consistent throughout the album, recorded in 2010, whether because some arias are simply better suited to her voice than others, or because she was not at her best for some of the recording sessions. While the agility and precision of her coloratura are always intact, in some selections, such as the arias "Tutto può donna vezzosa," and "Venere bella," Dessay's voice sounds lighter than it does on albums from earlier in her career, and even a little breathy in her lower register. In other arias, though, she conveys the remarkable fullness and purity for which she is renowned. "Se pieta di me non senti" is breathtaking; her gleaming tone is practically voluptuous and she spins lines of miraculously velvety smoothness and searing emotional intensity. "Piangerò la sorte mia" and the substitution aria "Per dar vita all'idol mio" are other highlights that showcase Dessay at her most vocally and dramatically dazzling. Mezzo-soprano Sonia Prina as Caesar is a capable partner for Dessay in several recitatives and the duet, "Caro! Bella!" Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d'Astrée, frequent collaborators with Dessay, bring their characteristic finesse, spirited intelligence, and dramatic urgency to the music, and the realizations of the continuo parts are especially inventive. Virgin Classics' sound is exceptionally vivid and present, with good balance.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Giulio Cesare in Egitto, HWV17|