Composers: Handel
Compositions: Operatic arias
Performers: Simone Kermes s, Amici Veneziani/Boris Begelman
Catalogue Number: Sony 19075861772

Simone Kermes is a highly idiosyncratic performer who delights in pushing the boundaries of good taste, often unafraid to inject her singing with a grab bag of vocal tricks. So it’s surprising that her latest release is that most standard of offerings, one to put next to your favourite singer’s Verdi or Puccini disc – the Handel recital.

For the most part, the soprano reins in her wilder impulses and there’s much to enjoy here. That’s not to say that she shies away from putting her dramatic stamp on things – quite the opposite. Kermes brings her usual commitment to proceedings, making even the more familiar selections vivid moments of drama. She’s in good hands with Amici Veneziani and its concertmaster Boris Begelman, whose playing is distinguished by both imagination and style.

Highlights on this disc include a finely realised Piangerò la sorte mia, Cleopatra’s sense of injustice competing with her despair.Similarly compelling is Ah, spietato from the rarely heard Amadigi di Gaula, Kermes navigating the emotional twists and turns well. Morirò, ma vendicata benefits from her ferocity of attack, while Guardian angels has an effective simplicity.

While there’s plenty of good stuff here, it’s worth saying that Handel tragics might find few original interpretive insights. Kermes sings with plenty of fervour, but the emotion tends to the generic at times and her passagework can be patchy in places. As always, she divides opinion.

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