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This royal trio are not operatic kings, but the composers named above, the principal contributors to the Royal Academy of Music, founded in London in 1719. Handel needs no introduction, but today we enjoy only scant acquaintance with the operas of Giovanni Bononcini and even less with those of Attilio Ariosti (1666–1729). One of the fascinating aspects of this imaginatively conceived CD is the opportunity it provides to compare composers working conjointly for the same theatre, not least in two of the most imposing excerpts on the disc, those taken from Handel’s Ottone (January 1723) and Ariosti’s Coriolano (February 1723). Both inhabit the same bleak world of hopelessness, given voice in a remarkable chromatically inflected accompagnato followed by an aria of profound grief, here unforgettably intensified further in the da capo by Zazzo.

In a world awash with fine countertenors Lawrence Zazzo is one of its aristocrats. The possessor of a voice of natural beauty and an enviable ease of production, he is on excellent form, singing with noble tone and dramatic conviction. Passaggi are executed with exemplary articulation with only the odd uneasily turned ornament (especially trills) detracting from a vibrantly sung recital. Zazzo is given fine support by Bates and the excellent La Nuova Musica, though I don’t care for the mannered, choppy rhythm of ‘Va tacito’ (Giulio Cesare) or the obtrusive theorbo continuo.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica


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