Emma Bell - Handel - American Record Guide
[This] is the solo debut of an exciting young soprano who has caused quite a stir in London, at Glyndebourne, and on the Continent in the last few years. Bell has a very strong, admirably accurate, but clearly big voice. Her selection of a Handel program is yet another reminder of how much that composer's operas have now moved into the mainstream of performers' attention. But Handel operas have also become a particular area of her expertise and experience so far. Her selection shows attention to the range of Handel's soprano writing, 11 items drawn from 9 operas (Rinaldo, Amadigi, Radamisto, Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda, Scipione, Lotario, Ariodante, and Deidamia), representing the entire span of Handel's operatic composition in London from 1711 to 1741. Included are one or two well-known arias, such as Piangero' la sorte mia from Cesare, but others are rarities.
Bell can blast with the best, when it comes to extroverted material. She can also add intensity with more serious arias-she is most eloquent in two Rodelinda selections. Nevertheless, like so many singers who pile up a menu of isolated arias, she does not do much in the way of adjusting her vocal color and emotional direction to different characters and dramatic situations. That said, this is a very impressive showing by a singer who is sure to be increasingly prominent in the years ahead. It might be added that she displays cautious but sometimes interesting da capo embellishments, notable in using syncopations. The orchestral support is lively, and the recorded sound is unusually vivid. The booklet includes not only full texts with translations but good background notes for each selection.