Apollo e Dafne (HWV 122)
Arion ARN 68565
Recorded live in 2001.
Released in 2002.
includes "Crudel tiranno amor" (HWV 97)
Salomé Haller (soprano)
Jérôme Corréas (bass, conductor)
Les Paladins (on period instruments)
Apollo e Dafne, also known as "La Terra è liberata", is a cantata for soprano, bass and orchestra, and its composition was probably begun in Italy around 1709 and finished in Hanover in 1710. Inspired by Ovid, it begins with Apollo’s pride at having killed the snake Python. He declares that the world has been freed from terror, and proclaims he is the supreme archer, even better than Amore the god of love. Amore (although absent from the cantata) immediately reduces Apollo's pride by making him fall in love with the nymph Dafne, but the lady is dedicated to the goddess Diana and despises Apollo’s love. Dafne attempts to flee from Apollo but the god is too fast. In order to escape him she is forced to metamorphose into a bay tree.
Handel's music is made by alternating recitatives, arias and duets, and features some very nice moments using solo woodwinds. In this recording, an overture - taken from the opera Rodrigo - has been added. With one instrument per part, the ensemble Les Paladins has decided to become fully involved in the drama, and it offers some very efficient moments of virtuosity and expression. From a vocal point of view, Salomé Haller is much less impressive than Karina Gauvin was on the recent Dorian recording. Haller sometimes seems to stay in the background from her partners, but it is also true that a sort of fragility in her singing fits to Dafne’s part particularly well. Jérôme Corréas is particularly dramatic and involved, and sounds much more at his ease than in his previous recording of Handel cantatas.
Despite being an Italian cantata for soprano, strings and continuo, "Crudel tiranno amor" was composed in London in 1721. It could have been first performed by Margherita Durastanti (the first performer of the title part in Agrippina and the cantata La Lucrezia). At first Salomé Haller seems not to have the vocal faculties required for emulating Durastanti, but maybe there is a little problem of balance created by the sound engineers - otherwise her performance is fine and satisfying.
The voices are not overly lyrical, and this combined with the colour of the authentic instruments and a plain live recording produces a coherent chamber version of Apollo e Dafne that is opposite - and complementary - to the excellent and more operatic version by Les Violons du Roy released in 2000 on the Dorian label.
© Philippe Gelinaud - July 2002
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