Il Complesso Barocco Founded in Amsterdam in 1979 by Alan Curtis, one of the most acclaimed specialists in the interpretation of pre-romantic music, Il Complesso Barocco, has become a renowned international baroque orchestra with a focus on Italian Baroque opera and oratorio. Their high standard for interpretation, intonation and stylistic accuracy has led to their being requested in the most important concert venues and festivals in Europe and America. Their rich discography was for a time devoted to the late madrigal repertory, and the film director Werner Herzog chose the ensemble as protagonists for his film Morte a cinque voci (Prix Italia 1996 and Premio Rembrandt, Amsterdam 1996) dedicated to the composer Carlo Gesualdo. They also recorded Michelangelo Rossi’s Primo Libro di Madrigali (called "ravishingly beautiful" by The Guardian, and awarded the Preis der Deutsche Schallplattenkritik and the "Antonio Vivaldi" International Recording Prize), vocal works by Antonio Lotti, the complete duets and selected madrigals by Monteverdi (Diapason d'Or de l'Eté, 1998), Guarini’s Pastor Fido cycle as set to music by Sigismondo d’India, Monteverdi and Marenzio and Carlo Gesualdo’s complete Libro Sesto delli Madrigali. A variety of oratorios followed: Alessandro Stradella’s Susanna, Benedetto Ferrari’s Il Sansone (Diapason d’or, 2000), Pietro Andrea Ziani’s Assalonne punito (Choc de la Musique) and Francesco Conti’s David . They have also recorded, for Virgin Classics, Domenico Scarlatti’s Lettere amorose (a series of three cantatas) along with harpsichord sonatas and operatic duets with Anna Bonitatibus and Patrizia Ciofi. There followed a selection of Handel’s operatic duets, Amore e gelosia, for Virgin with Ciofi and Joyce DiDonato as well as the best-selling Maga abbandonata for BMG with Maite Beaumont and Simone Kermes. Alan Curtis, together with Il Complesso Barocco, has also played a fundamental role in the modern revival of Baroque operas, especially those of Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Handel. Admeto, the first Handel opera to be revived with original instruments, including theorbo, was conducted by Alan Curtis in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 1979 at which time it was recorded by EMI and widely praised; it was reissued in CD a quarter of a century later by Virgin. In the present century, their Handel recordings have included Rodrigo (awarded the Premio Internazionale del Disco "Antonio Vivaldi" 2000), Arminio (International Handel Recording Prize 2002), Deidamia (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik 2003 and International Handel Recording Prize 2004), Lotario (for BMG), Rodelinda (for Deutsche Gramophon-Archiv), Radamisto (International Handel Recording Prize 2005), Fernando re di Castiglia (Sosarme), Floridante, Tolomeo, Ezio, Berenice, Alcina, Ariodante, Giulio Cesare, Giove in Argo, the latter soon to appear. They have also recorded Vivaldi’s Giustino, which Curtis was the first to revive: in the Palladian Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, in the Opéra Royal in Versailles, La Fenice in Venice, and in Houston, Buenos Aires, Rotterdam, etc. The same composer’s recently re-discovered masterpiece Motezuma was given its world premiere recording (DGG-Archiv, also available on DVD from Dynamic) which led to an international tour, both in concert and in a production by Stefano Vizioli in 2007-8 (Lisbon, Paris, Vienna, Seville, Valladolid, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, etc.). Vivaldi’s Ercole su’l Termodonte, in a reconstruction by Alessandro Ciccolini, was also given its world premiere by Il Complesso Barocco at the Spoleto Festival (2006) and was issued on DVD (Dynamic), as was Handel’s Ariodante staged and designed for the same Festival (2007) by John Pascoe. In this same year, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Domenico Scarlatti’s death, they presented Scarlatti’s Tolomeo e Alessandro at the Piccola Accademia di Montisi Music Festival (Tuscany), in Santiago de Compostela (Festival Via Stellae) and in Madrid (Ciclo Los Siglos de Oro). The following year, the opera was revived in Paris, Theatre des Champs Elysees and Vienna, Theater an der Wien. It was also recorded in Madrid (DGG-Archiv). Other operas they have performed and recorded include both Jommelli’s and Gluck’s Ezio, Haydn Operatic Arias and Overtures with Anna Bonitatibus, Porpora Operatic Arias and Sinfonie with Karina Gauvin, Handel’s Giove in Argo, his arias for Carestini with Vesselina Kasarova, and “Hidden Handel” with Ann Hallenberg, a collection of little-known but superb arias, some of them still unpublished. Other new recordings with Curtis conducting Il Complesso Barocco include Haydn operatic arias and overtures with Anna Bonitatibus, Porpora operatic arias and sinfonie with Karina Gauvin, Handel arias for Carestini with Vesselina Kasarova, and “Hidden Handel” with Ann Hallenberg, a collection of little-known but superb arias, some of them still unpublished. An unusual recent project was a Handel Bestiary, a collaboration with the celebrated novelist Donna Leon. Already a best-seller in German-speaking countries under the title Tiere und Töne, editions in other languages, including English, were brought out in 2011. It is a book of essays accompanied by a CD of twelve arias by Handel about twelve different animals, recorded for the occasion by Il Complesso Barocco and four soloists, all described, including legends from Medieval bestiaries, in Leon’s text, with accompanying illustrations by the famous German artist, Michael Sowa. Other recent release is “Streams of Pleasure” (arias and duets from Handel’s oratorios) sung by Marie Nicole Lemieux and Karina Gauvin. Future plans include Handel’s Arianna in Creta, Vivaldi’s Catone in Utica, and two recently discovered operas by Gluck.
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