Amanda Forsythe: “The Power of Love: Arias from Handel Operas”
Arias from Alcina, Almira, Ariodante, Giulio Cesare, Orlando, Partenope, Rinaldo, Serse and Teseo; Ballet Suite from Terpsichore. Apollo’s Fire, Sorrell. Texts and translations. Avie 2350
THE OUTSTANDING YOUNG AMERICAN soprano Amanda Forsythe is pursuing a flourishing stage, concert and recording career to great acclaim—just not (yet) in her native New York City! Her name’s headlining Avie’s new CD will surely bring contented smiles to those who frequent the concerts and stagings of Boston Baroque and the Boston Early Music Festival, where she has gained in prominence year-by-year. In the last few seasons she has also made serious forays into European venues (London, Geneva, Amsterdam, Rome)—and not only in her principal fach, Baroque music. Forsythe has sung Mozart’s Pamina in Ghent, Rossini’s Jemmy at Pesaro and Verdi’s Nannetta at Covent Garden.
Handel remains a Forsythe staple and forms the matter of “The Power of Love,” recorded under Jeannette Sorrell in 2014 sessions with Sorrell’s admirably responsive, fully engaged Cleveland-based original instruments band Apollo’s Fire. (The orchestra itself takes on four graceful dance movements, totaling about eleven of the disc’s seventy minutes.) Forsythe’s lovely soprano offers clarity of timbre, fleet coloratura, accurate intervals—she needs them in the opening selection from Orlando, Dorinda’s nonpareil workout “Amor è qual vento”—and considerable creativity and range in decorations. The choice of repertory extends from 1705’s Almira, Handel’s first opera, through Serse from 1737, a few short years before he switched to oratorio. The obscure items mix with the well-known. We get two act-ending crowd-pleasers from the “sister” characters in Alcina and Serse.
Generally, recitatives are elided, though we hear from Rinaldo’s sorceress Armida before the devastating “Ah, crudel,” and Cleopatra gets her lead-in to “Piangerò.” (Given how many wonderful renderings of this and “Da tempeste” are available, one wishes that Forsythe and Sorrell had avoided Giulio Cesare altogether, unless to mine more frequently cut treasures like “Venere bella.”) The variations, all flawlessly executed, are stylish and usually tasteful but sometimes a bit excessive, as in Morgana’s triumphant “Tornami a vagheggiar,” from Alcina, in which the repeat’s staccati and cadenza nearly take us off the rails of the enchanting melody. Forsythe varies her characterizations intelligently; when she takes on Partenope’s title role (to which she’s eminently suited), she may discover in the dramatic context of the entrancing “Qual farfalletta” more layers of the ambiguity Winton Dean cites. The helpful booklet curiously calls Ariodante’s Dalinda (“A Court Lady” in the libretto) a “servant girl,” and it omits the text of Teseo’s contemplative “Amarti si vorrei” altogether. Plus, you’ll have to read Sorrell’s (interesting) notes to learn which soprano character in a given opera takes each piece. Fans of Handel’s operas and this remarkably accomplished soprano will definitely want to hear this recording. —David Shengold
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