It turns out that you do. I went through an intensive Handel buying phase between about 2003 and 2005, so I have a lot of CDs that came out then or a few years before. I haven’t bought many Handel recitals (as opposed to complete operas) in a while, because after a certain point you realize that you have on your shelf fifteen different people singing “scherza, infida” and a different fifteen singing “se pietà” and in at least one case the same person singing each of those but on different CDs, and after a certain point you begin to experience diminishing returns.
On the other hand, there is this recital CD by Alice Coote, with the English Concert and Harry Bicket, that is really very arrestingly good. I particuarly liked the excerpts from Alcina – “mi lusinga il dolce affetto” has the same delicacy and intimacy that I remember from hearing Coote in that concert performance of this opera last fall, and in “verdi prati” she has this way of stretching out the phrases but in such a way that there is a sort of springy energy holding them together. You know how sometimes singers are criticized for “limp” phrasing? Well, this is the opposite of that. Every moment expresses Ruggiero’s sense of vanishing beauty.
The sections from Hercules are also a highlight – I always find myself thinking it kind of a bonus that Handel ended up in England and thus wrote several oratorios to English texts. With “Cease ruler of the day to rise” the contrast in my head was DiDonato, whose renditions of this express a kind of beautiful anguish; Coote’s offers a deeply felt sadness and regret. Different, but I am more than happy to have both.