Andrea Marcon and La Cetra Barockorchester & Vokalensemble Basel sparkle in this new release of Handel’s forgotten masterpiece Parnasso in festa, recorded shortly before their hugely successful Netherlands premiere of the opera in November 2016.
Handel wrote this sumptuous work in 1734 to celebrate the marriage in London of Princess Anne and Prince William of Orange. Cast in the form of a serenata, Parnasso in festa recounts the joyful wedding feast of Thetis and Peleus at which the Muses are present. It’s packed with breathtaking arias, duets and choruses, all written with the verve, drama and sense of occasion to be expected from Handel. The soloists that he had on hand for the premiere were among the greatest Italian singers of the day – Giovanni Carestini, Margherita Durastanti, Anna Maria Strada del Po and Maria Caterina Negri. The care he lavished on the richly instrumented score is striking, from the masterly reworking of material from his oratorio Athalia to the ravishing original material, making this work unique among Handel’s output. Parnasso in festa proved to be very popular in its day it and was revived several times, yet after 1741 was largely forgotten. Now after years of neglect, this superbly crafted work has been recognised for the glorious entertainment that it is.
The renowned Baroque specialist Andrea Marcon is noted for his striking and vivid interpretations. Here he gives Parnasso in festa the attention it deserves with an outstanding vocal cast around his period-instrument group La Cetra. Opera News described Robin Johansen’s performance in the Netherlands premiere as “[a] revelation … superbly agile and fresh-sounding—but also expressive—in Clio’s taxing music.” The demanding role of Apollo is undertaken by the countertenor David Hansen, a rising star described by The New Yorker as “…a pure-voiced young Australian who is typical of a new breed of matinée-idol countertenors”. And a performance at the Handel Festival in 2014 drew rave reviews “Altogether, with the virtuosic playing of the inspired Cetra orchestra under Maestro Marcon, so finely balanced with the stunning chorus and soloists, this concert performance of an infrequently performed serenata became … one of the high points of the festival.” (Opera con Brio)
It’s a sumptuous banquet for Handel lovers and opera enthusiasts and especially ‘fit for royalty’.