It's hard to know where to start in enumerating the virtues of this recording of Handel's opera Tamerlano, HWV 18, composed in 1724 and revised and revived in 1731 (the latter version is heard here). Start with the opera itself, which might be called the most adult of Handel's operas and is far from being as well known as it should be. Loosely based on a play by Christopher Marlowe, the opera tells the story of the Mongol king Tamerlane, his conquest of part of the Ottoman empire, and the love triangles that resulted. It's full of themes of sadism and psychological torture, expertly captured in the music. Next come the singers, who are asked to do a great deal in this opera: it requires a pair of countertenors and a tenor who can match the international stars for whom Handel was writing in range of both voice and characterization. This listeners get in Xavier Sabata as Tamerlano, Max Emanuel Cencic as Andronico, and John Mark Ainsley as the doomed Turkish leader Bajazet. Then there's the orchestra Il Pomo d'Oro and conductor Riccardo Minasi, who maintain a tough, wiry tension throughout the opera's three acts. Finally, though one could go on at length, there's the sound, which gives the singers room to maneuver but doesn't put them in a space that doesn't sound like a theater. This could be the recording that puts Tamerlano into the central Handel repertory.