Handel: The Rival Queens
Opera Arias and Duets
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Seventeenth-century London was gripped by a passion for Italian opera. Two soprano divas held centre stage—Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni, represented here by Catherine Bott and Emma Kirkby respectively—and both quickly won a fiercely partisan following among audiences. The Royal Academy of Music cynically exploited this rivalry by repeatedly engaging the two to sing roles which would bring them into conflict, in 'stage' and 'real life' personas. (The unfortunate result of this scheme, which could almost be said to have worked 'too well', was that over-enthusiastic audiences rioted, the Academy fell into disrepute and debt, and closed in 1728.)

In these operas we find Alessandro being fought over by his two wives; Admeto with a dead wife returned to disturb his courting of an old flame; Riccardo (Richard I of England) being harrassed by the daughter of the tyrant who has kidnapped his fiancée; Siroe attempting to court his father's enemy's daughter while being pursued by Laodice whom his father loves; Tolomeo looking for his wife who is being pursued by the King of Cyprus whose sister is after Tolomeo …

Hell hath no fury …

CDA66950  74 minutes 47 seconds
‘This CD is appealing on every plane. It's certainly one of my discs for 1997’ (Gramophone)
‘The voices contrast well, and their owners, as well as The Brandenburg Consort, perform this wonderful music with style and an intense sense of affection’ (BBC Music Magazine)
‘Right on cure for the bull market in Handel operatic stock,'The Rival Queens' conquer all before them. A right royal feast!’ (Classic CD)