, May 2011
One can easily appreciate this early William Christie recording with Capella Coloniensis, a group originally formed in 1954 (!) to perform baroque works in historically informed performances. Christie masters this orchestra well, and the playing is impeccable. The casting is excellent, including some of the great singers of the time: Emma Kirkby, in her prime, Agnes Mellon, Dominique Visse and David Cordier, among others. There is even a male soprano, Randall K. Wong, a rare type of singer indeed.
The music is delightful. And some of the arias are as long as nine minutes, with some of the longer arias near the end of the work. The singers perform very well, as do the orchestra, and the recording itself is very clean and precise. The only odd thing about it is the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that only sopranos and counter-tenors sing in this work. After a while, I longed to hear a tenor or bass, just for variety.
One can compare this opera to Handel’s oratorios and operas; Cleofide is from 1731, and Handel, around that time, had already written such great operas as Rinaldo, Agrippina, Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda. So this type of music was well known, and Hasse was clearly influenced by it. Hasse wrote several dozen operas, and very few are available on disc today. This is a shame, because Cleofide shows that Hasse was a composer to reckon with; not quite up to Handel, but not far away.
If you like Handel’s operas, and want to discover an unjustly forgotten composer, Cleofide is worth checking out. It is an entertaining opera—though long; just ignore the recitatives—full of delightful, happy music, performed by excellent musicians and soloists.