With "Croesus" Renè Jacobs creates another masterful and delightful recording of an important Baroque opera, written by a wonderful but now forgotten composer. Reinhard Keiser directed and composed for the influential Hamburg public opera house from 1696 until 1707, and in his career is credited with writing about 80 operas, most of which are now lost. "Croesus" was one of his most influential and popular works. It was from Keiser that Handel got his chance to make a big splash with his first Italian opera ("Almira") in Hamburg, and after hearing this recording listeners will immediately detect the tremendous influence that Keiser had on the young Saxon. (Handel later borrowed many Keiser melodies and ideas for his own works). While the recitatives and arias are sung in German, the numerous arias, duets and ensembles (forty-four on 3 discs!) are a rich fusion of the Italian da capo style with the German preference for drama over vocal fireworks. Several arias are accompanied by horns as well as strings and woodwinds, a device Handel would later use to great effect in operas like "Rinaldo" and "Radamisto." Listeners will understand why Christopher Hogwood, in his 1984 biography of Handel, described Keiser as the "most gifted opera composer in Germany" because of his "sensitive flow of drama." Unlike operas in the Italian style, Keiser's music and arias are much more firmly matched to the action, and the arias emphasize feeling and emotion over vocal agility. The arias themselves are quite beautiful and melodic, and vary in length between a minute and a half and five or so minutes. Thankfully, the recording engineers separated the recitatives and arias on different tracks so that you can hear only the arias if you wish. Modern listeners who are put-off by Baroque opera because of counter-tenors in the leading roles and wild vocal improvisations will find much more to like in this recording. The male lead character is a baritone (sung by Roman Trekel), and Dorothea Roschmann sings the female lead ("Elmira") with deep and loving sensitivity... both singers are allowed to shine under Jacob's masterful direction. There is only one counter-tenor role: it is sung by the veteran Graham Pushee, and his voice fits well within Keiser's dramatic emphasis. There are numerous tenor, soprano, and baritone roles in the opera as well, all sung by gifted artists. There is not one weak or irritating voice in the lot! Another sparkling gem on this recording is the incidental music: the exciting overture (lots or horns and timpani here!), several ballets (the ballet of the soldiers is especially nice), and the use of almost modern-like use of the orchestra to provide sounds effects for the action. The opening of the second act features birds singing outside of a peasant hut, which are then slowly and gradually joined by the violins and recorders accompanying their songs, followed by a charming duet sung by a peasant woman and her husband which builds upon the previous melodies. Highly recommended, and a fantastic addition to anyone's collection!