Handel: Italian Cantatas by Sabine Devieihe & Lea Desandre

The violent and confronting tale of Lucretia’s rape at the hands of the evil Tarquinius has, for reasons I’d rather not ponder, inspired countless works of great art. Paintings, plays, narrative poems, operas and cantatas all set out to depict elements of Lucretia’s tragic demise. Among those to have drawn inspiration from our tragedienne is Handel, and his La Lucrezia is one of the works presented on this album of Handel’s Italian cantatas.

In Handel’s setting, an agonised Lucretia vows revenge on Tarquinius in hell, and finally drives a sword into her own breast. Loraine Hunt-Lieberson, aching with pathos, made what is arguably considered the benchmark recording of the cantata. Young Italian mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre is the soloist here, and she certainly impresses. Hers is a youthful interpretation, and among Desandre’s skills is her capacity for coloratura. Possessed of a voice light at the top and rich at the bottom, Desandre aptly navigates the many fiendishly difficult passages with which Handel challenges the singer, particularly in the vengeful aria ‘Il suol che preme’. Sabine Devieilhe’s performances cannot go unmentioned, however, considering she is one of the great sopranos of our age, and her part in the cantata ‘Aminta e Fillide’ is spectacular. A superlative recording.

Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.