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Handel’s opera was premiered in London in 1724 with quite a cast, including the castrato Senesino and soprano Cuzzoni, superstar singers of the day. It was then revived in 1731 and this recording is based on that version (while restoring one number from the original). The plot is typically convoluted but gratifyingly dramatic, as one would hope from an opera featuring both Tamburlaine and Bajazet. There are two major countertenor roles and the voices are thoughtfully contrasted: Xavier Sabara’s Tamerlano has rich tone and a refulgent chest voice; Max Emanuel Cenčić has a higher vocal placement and more glittering colour, highly suitable for the role of Andronico. John Mark Ainsley’s smooth and capable tenor is put through its paces as Bajazet, and Ruxandra Donose’s Irene is evenly sung, but the voice sounds as though it would be happier if the role lay higher. Karina Gauvin is Asteria, her high-lying soprano both rich yet pure and technically undaunted by this virtuosic role. Conductor Riccardo Minasi ensures that the recitatives have as much drama as the arias and ensembles.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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