Classical CD Reviews

Drama Queens – Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-sop./ Il Complesso Barocco/ Alan Curtis – Virgin Classics

Drama doesn’t begin to explain the multifaceted characteristics of these oh-so-human and oh-so-removed opera queens.

Published on November 1, 2012

Drama Queens – Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-sop./ Il Complesso Barocco/ Alan Curtis – Virgin Classics

Drama Queens – Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-sop./ Il Complesso Barocco/ Alan Curtis – Virgin Classics 5099960265425, 77:18 [Distr. by EMI] ****:

Joyce DiDonato has been flooding the record world with fiery concept albums for a number of years now. It surprised me to see that she has actually recorded at least 29 albums so far, many solo. This one takes the intriguing question of “queens” in opera, and each and every one of them features larger than life, way over the top emotions, situations, love interests, killing interests, control, submission, vulnerability, invulnerability…well, you get the idea I hope.

The point is that the queen as a character is someone whom composers of all ages, but especially the baroque, enjoyed projecting some of the most dramatic and willfully everything-on-sleeve passions ever experienced in the operatic realm. The stories are so varied and so astoundingly out of bounds according to normal human behavioral conventions that the musical fodder provided for talented composer is almost endless. The stories, in many cases, are also true, or at least as true as history has allowed us to uncover. But the regal personifications in the history books never can equal the stylized and sometimes brutally infused personalities that composers like Handel, Monteverdi, and Cesti can give them.

As a concept album this release works wonderfully on all fronts. DiDonato is in full fine form and throws her magnificent instrument into each of these pieces with a fury matched only by the inherent willfulness of the queens themselves. Alan Curtis and his band are not the smoothest of period ensembles but they are technically on top of things and completely committed to the wild and crazy music afforded these wild and crazy reg-gals. And some of the music is simply exquisite. Easily recommended!

TrackList (by Queen):

Berenice, queen of Palestine – Da torbida procella, Orlandini
Ifigenia, princess of Mycenae – Madre diletta, abbracciami, Porta
Alcina, a sorceress – Ma quando tornerai, Handel
Galsuinde, princess of Spain – Lasciami piangere, Keiser
Cleopatra, queen of Egypt – Morte col fiero aspetto, Hasse; Piangerò la sorte mia, Handel
Orontea, queen of Egypt – Intorno all’idol mio, Cesti
Rossane, a Persian princess – Brilla nell’alma, Handel
Octavia, empress of Rome – Geloso sospetto, Keiser; Disprezzata regina, Monteverdi
Irene, princess of Trebisond – Sposa, son disprezzata, Giacomelli
Berenice, queen of Palestine – Col versar, barbaro, il sangue, Orlandini
Armida, a sorceress – Odio, furor, dispetto, Haydn

—Steven Ritter

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