Georg Friedrich Handel – Heroes from the Shadows – Orfeo 55, Nathalie Stutzmann & Philippe Jaroussky (2014) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Georg Friedrich Handel – Heroes from the Shadows – Orfeo 55, Nathalie Stutzmann & Philippe Jaroussky (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:19:20 minutes | 1,42 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  – Source: Qobuz | Label: Erato/Warner Classics
Recording:19-23 May 2014, Église du Bon Secours, Paris.

For her first recording on Erato as a newly-signed exclusive artist, Nathalie Stutzmann conducts her superb Orfeo 55 musicians playing on Baroque instruments, while singing some of Handel’s most virtuosic arias, all with a rare mastery of both arts – neither one in the shadow of the other.
Heroes from the Shadows makes stars of the unfairly overlooked roles – from Arsamene to Zenobia – who sing Handel’s hidden operatic jewels: Cornelia from Giulio Cesare (‘Son nata’ in duet with star countertenor Philippe Jaroussky as her guest), Dardano’s stately ‘Pena tiranna’ from Amadigi di Gaula, and the sublime, intimate ‘Senti, bell’idol mio’ sung by Claudio in Silla. Nathalie Stutzmann also relinquishes vocal duties to conduct Orfeo 55 in ravishing instrumental music: sinfonias from Poro, Partenope, Scipione and Serse.

Another Handel arias disc? Yes; although for once not just a run-down of usual arias from roles a singer happens to have sung recently but a carefully themed recital which brings into the light music that has for the most part languished undeservedly in obscurity. ‘Heroes from the Shadows’ takes as its subject arias written for Handel’s secondary characters which, though less celebrated, have just as much of the composer’s genius in them. For Handel makes no distinction: arias for subsidiary characters are as likely to be as vividly illuminated by psychological insight as those for leading roles.
They do tend to attract less attention from top singers, however, so it is lucky that they are performed here by one of today’s most distinguished Baroque voices. Nathalie Stutzmann’s dark, smooth contralto is always a pleasure to hear but her expressive intensity, athletic virtuosity and emotional intelligence make it a valuable instrument indeed (and an authentic one too; all but two of these arias were written for female singers) – it is hard to imagine anyone bringing more depth and nobility to Handel’s heart-rending slow arias of hopeless love. Yet it is not just a matter of singing slowly and beautifully: in Arsamene’s aria from Serse, the word ‘cor’ at the end of the B section is barely sounded; Ottone breaks momentarily into speech in his aria from Agrippina; and ‘Pena tiranna’, the plaintive sarabande with pained oboe and bassoon lines for Dardano from Amadigi di Gaula is one of several arias to culminate in a surging climactic final phrase and orchestral play-out. Subtle, considered and truthful touches like this make every aria, be it fast or slow, a memorably shaped event. Everything about that shaping is attributable to Stutzmann herself, of course, for it is she who conducts the orchestra she founded in 2009. Despite some edgy tuning from the strings, they are with her at every turn. — Review Lindsay Kemp (

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
01 Poro, HWV 28, Act 3: Sinfonia
02 Ariodante, HWV 33, Act 3: “Dover, giustizia, amor” (Polinesso)
03 Orlando, HWV 31, Act 3: Sinfonia
04 Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act 2: “Pena tiranna” (Dardano)
05 Alessandro, HWV 21, Act 3: “Sarò qual vento” (Cleone)
06 Serse, HWV 40, Act 1: “Non so se sia la speme” (Arsamene)
07 Partenope, HWV 27, Act 3: Sinfonia
08 Radamisto, HWV 12, Act 1: “Son contenta di morire” (Zenobia)
09 Agrippina, HWV 6, Act 2: “Voi che udite il mio lamento” (Ottone)
10 Tamerlano, HWV 18, Act 2: “Par che mi nasca in seno” (Irene)
11 Scipione, HWV 20, Act 3: Sinfonia
12 Giulio Cesare, HWV 17, Act 2 “L’aure che spira” (Cornelia)
13 Serse, HWV 40, Act 3: Sinfonia
14 Giulio Cesare, HWV 17, Act 1: “Son nata/nato a lagrimar” (Cornelia, Sesto)*
15 Arianna in Creta, HWV 32, Act 2: “Son qual stanco pellegrino” (Alceste)
16 Rodelinda, HWV 19, Act 3: “Se fiera belva ha cinto” (Bertarido)
17 Silla, HWV 10, Act 1: “Senti, bell’idol mio” (Claudio)
18 Partenope, HWV 27, Act 1: “Io seguo sol fiero” (Rosmira)
19 Amadigi di Gaula, HWV 11, Act 3: Ballo di pastori e pastorelle

Orfeo 55
Nathalie Stutzmann, Contralto, Conductor
Philippe Jaroussky, Counter-Tenor*