Once again the gifted and inventive Emmanuelle Haïm has 'resurrected' a Handel rarity, this time the Easter story as depicted in the composer's LA RESURREZIONE, a brilliant oratorio that borders on opera. A bit of background for the work will help those to whom this work is here discovered: 'La resurrezione (HWV 47) is a sacred oratorio by George Frideric Handel, set to a libretto by Carlo Sigismondo Capece (1652-1728). Capece was court poet to Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, who was living in exile in Rome. It was first performed on the Easter Sunday of 1708 at Rome, with the backing of the Marchese Francesco Ruspoli, Handel's patron at this time. The work details the events between - and during - Good Friday and Easter Sunday, with the action carried forward in recitative, and exploration of character and delineation of mood taking place in the arias. The characters of the liturgical drama that appear in the oratorio are Lucifer (bass), Mary Magdalene (soprano), an Angel (soprano), St John the Evangelist (tenor), and St Mary Cleophas (alto).'
Here Emmanuelle Haïm (harpsichord, organ, direction) conducts Le Concert d'Astre ensemble with distinction and has chosen a cast of excellent vocalists to bring this work to life. The angel is performed by Camilla Tilling (soprano), Lucifer by the impressive Luca Pisaroni (bass-baritone), Mary Magdalene by a radiant Kate Royal (soprano), St. Mary Cleophas by Sonia Prina (contralto), and St. John the Evangelist by Toby Spence (tenor). The oratorio follows the same style as Handel's well-known Messiah, but this work is much more dramatic and each of the vocalists creates a character instead of simply singing the at times reckless lines with great beauty of tone and pitch control. This is a 2 CD set and given the fact that it is so seldom performed is a must for those who desire to understand the Baroque tradition.
Of note, and a bit of comical history, 'the role of Mary Magdalene was sung at the first performance by the soprano Margherita Durastanti. The participation of female singers was prohibited by Papal edict, and the Pope went to the length of admonishing Ruspoli for permitting Durastanti to take part. For the remaining performances, her role was sung by a castrato.' Ah, how times have changed! Grady Harp, January 12