Some time ago, it was reported that Natalie Dessay was facing a vocal crisis, and I became quite worried at how her voice would sound after that. Now I know I had no real reasons to be worried, since the superb Natalie Dessay proved again what a great and intelligent artist she is. While Natalie Dessay has had to abandone a little her former lirico-leggero coloratura singing with an abundance of stratospheric high notes and superhuman agility, she has now gained an equally stupendous voice. It's now creamier and fuller than before, with a much improved low register and a richer middle register. She doesn't attempt the highest notes anymore (notice that highest notes for Dessay mean High G's and High A's, since she's still able to hit a wonderful High E Flat or High E), but her artistry seems to have deepend and matured. One of my greatest praises to her singing has always been Dessay's ability to convey the proper nuance and dramaticism to any melody she sings, even if it's a simple recitative. Now she seems to have reached the complete maturity of her artistry, and this album is a proof of that.
This is an album of Händel's Italian Cantatas, which are full of nuanced and fascinating music. They may not have the dramaticism of his later operas nor the depth of other sacred pieces by him, like Messiah, but they have that wonderful melodical creativity that Händel had. In "Un pensiero voli in ciel", Dessay shows her flowing legato in long coloratura lines with the accompaniment of lively, meaningful strings. The aria "Lascia omai le brune vele" contains some fascinating, unselfconsciously exuberant fioriture, which are sung by Dessay with stunning ease. She's also magnificent in the more lyrical and melancholic arias, such as "Per te lasciai la luce" or "Ho tanti affanni in petto", where it's amazing to hear the rich and expressive vocal colours and tones of Dessay's voice.
There are some people who criticize Emanuelle Haïm's always lively and exciting conducting. Those must be real purists, who prefer a flawless sound to an orchestral performance that shows all the dramatic and melodical nuances of the music. As I'm not a Baroque purist, I must say I'm a real fan of Haïm's conducting. She doesn't seem to care a lot about creating a perfectly homogeneous and transcendental sound, but rather creating a sound that excites the ears and is meaningful to the heart, and she always succeeds. In this way, her conducting is a perfect accompaniment to Natalie Dessay, whose superb voice is always used to favor the drama that imbues the music.
Definitely, this is one of the best Händel releases of the last years, and it's also a great success for Dessay, who digs new repertoire for her and proves to be ideal for it. I highly recommend this excellent album!