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Hasse: Cleofide [Box set]

Emma Kirkby , Derek Lee Ragin , Agnès Mellon , Dominique Visse , David Cordier , et al. Audio CD

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Emma Kirkby, soprano (Cléofide) - Derek Lee Ragin, alto (Poro) - Agnès Mellon, soprano (Erissena) - Dominique Visse, alto (Alessandro) - Randall K. Wong, soprano (Gandarte) - David Cordier, alto (Timagène) - Cappella Coloniensis - William Christie, dir.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a voice teacher and early music fan March 29 2011
By George Peabody - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
QUEEN KIRKBY: THE LEADER OF THE PACK!

Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), a German composer, was the most esteemed and highly paid composer of his time, admired by J.S.Bach and Mozart. Besides 'opera serie', he composed cantatas, concertos, instrumental and keyboard sonatas and much sacred music. He was the first composer to set Metastasio's texts, and his music reflects the neo-classical ideal of Metastasio's style. A powerful dramatist, he was renowned for his use of the accompaniment recitative, which is very clear in 'Cleofide'. Hasse's long career covered the period around the middle of the 18th century, and his later works reveal attempts at overall unity by means of tonal phrasing and a reaction against the 'da capo' aria like those in the later works of Gluck. In 1734, he became composer to the court of Dresden, becoming the most powerful exponent of the Italian operatic style in Germany. 'Cleofide' was first performed in Dresden in September, 1731.

'Cleofide' is concerned with fictitious events surrounding the conquest of Northern Italy by Alexander, who has, on this occasion, shown himself in his love for Cleofide (Indian Queen), to be generous to her as well as magnanimous and merciful with the traitor, Timagene. The major part of the story is taken from Quintius Curtius. Some things are mere legend though not far from historically appropriate.

The cast consists of six main singers, all quite skilled, both vocally and dramatically. The female sopranos, Emma Kirkby(Cleofide) and Agnes Mellon(Erissena) have pleasing voices, but dissimilar enough one from the other that the listener can discern which is which. Kirkby's voice is somewhat lighter and thus seems more flexible. It behooves me to say that she presents a real 'star' image for she is such a natural born performer with an enormous amount of experience. She shines in the complex music of Bach as well as in Purcell's charming odes. All of these soloists perform with temperment invoking the good ol' days of duelling divos and divas.

There are, in fact, only treble voices in this cast: two female sopranos, one male sopranist and three male altos (countertenors). It is certainly to Christie's credit that he chose the four male falsettists with easily discernible voices. Randall Wong(sopranist)presents an invigorating sound as his high notes slip into place with a strong and rich quality. It is fortunate that Dominique Visse(alto) has a most unusual timbre, a somewhat 'grating' sound, which serves him well in the role of Alexander who has considerable participation. Derek Ragin(alto)possesses his own unique sound using much vibrato and ornamentation plus an extended voice range with a slight break in the middle. David Cordier(one of my favorite falsettists) sings with a smooth and even mezzo voice.

The recitatives are lengthy, but I did not find this annoying because the action moved forward in an uninterrupted fashion. The arias are pleasant sounding with uncomplicated melodies, and the accompaniment of the Cappella Coloniensis was competent and sensitive to the singers' renditions. With William Christie at the helm, it is not surprising that the singers and instrumentalists go from strength to stength as the recording progresses. Those who enjoy Handel oratorios most likely will enjoy this work too, because stylistically they are very close.

ROBERT HUGILL,CLASSICAL CD REVIEW: "The title role is taken by Emma Kirkby, on suberb form...sheer brilliance in Kirkby's technic..."

The opera is 230 minutes; four CD's, and includes a booklet with pertinent information and the libretto; English, German and Italian. This is a reissue of Christie's 1986 recording that is now accessible at a more reasonable price.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most welcomed re-issue of a distinguished recording. Aug. 20 2012
By Abert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Hasse's Cleofide, like Handel's Poro, is based on Metastasio's libretto about Alexander the Great. Cleofide focuses more on the Indian queen Cleofide and her fidelity to her lover (another Indian king) Poro, despite his jealousy.

Cleofide was Hasse's first opera for the Saxon court. J.S. Bach, accompanied by his eldest son, traveled from Leipzig to hear it.
Set during Alexander the Great's conquest of India, Cleofide explores the themes of jealousy, possessiveness (of women as well as kingdoms), and the clemency of wise rulers. Its title character -- an Indian queen -- is the faithful lover of Poro, the chronically jealous king of another region of India. In the words of Reinhard Strom, "Cleofide uses feminine weapons to defend her country against Alexander, and masculine heroism to break the grip of [her lover's] jealousy" -- a plum role for the composer's wife Faustina Bordoni (mezzo soprano) who played the role of Cleofide at the premiere.
The original cast was set for two soprano castrati as Gandarte and Alessandro Magna respectively, and two alto castrati, one mezzo-soprano (styled soprano nonetheless in Handel's days) and one soprano:
Ventura Rocchetti, soprano castrato: Gandarte.
Domenico Annibali, soprano castrato: Alessandro Magna (Alexander the Great).
Domenico Campioli, alto castrato: Poro, Indian King.
Nicolò Pozzi, alto castrato: Timagene, Alexander's general.
Faustina Bordoni, soprano: Cleofide.
Maria Santina Cattaneo, soprano: Erissena.
In this recording, we are blessed with four great falsettists in the four castrati roles. For the two soprano castrati roles, Christie put the wonderful Visse as Alessandro, with a distinctive timbre and great vocal felicity. Even more wonderful is the casting of male soprano Randall K. Wong in the role of Gandarte. Wong possesses a terrific vocal range, singing with great agility and purity of tone.
As for the two alto parts, I would have thought that David Cordier should be casted as Poro instead of Derek Lee Ragin, who, by the time of this recording, is unfortunately past his prime.
The two ladies are wonderfully portrayed by Emma Kirkby and Agnes Mellon. While Kirkby could under no circumstances have resembled Bordoni (who was a mezzo-soprano), she still sings with great expressivity, though one really would have wished some body like Dorothea Roeschmann in the role of Cleofide.
Bill Christie's conducting is truly luscious, and even the long-winded recitatives are beautifully rendered.
The arias abound with beautiful pieces, and the famous aria (high lighted in the film `Farinelli') Generoso risuegliati is beautifully rendered by Derek Lee Ragin, though Dov'è? Si affretti is less effective, while sopranist Randall Wong gave a highly affecting and beautiful performance in Gandarte's aria Pupillette Vezzosette.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No libretto Dec 29 2013
By Opera lover in Chicago - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Here is another finely performed work from a lesser-known but excellent composer. This recording should have a libretto with translation.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful recording of a wonderful opera. July 5 2012
By Gary in Silver Spring - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
It's a shame Hasse is not better known. His music is delightful and melodic. This is a fine recording. I would love to see them perform it. Highly recommended.

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