Cleopatra
Baroque arias
Regula Mühlemann s, La Folia Barokorchester/Müller
Sony 88985407012

Swiss soprano Regula Mühlemann has been building a fine reputation of late from Gluck to early bel canto. This concept album, exploring composers’ fascination for an array of romantically charged Egyptian Queens by the name of Cleopatra, takes her back to the Baroque and proves equally fertile territory for her silvery vocal charms.

Refreshingly, Mühlemann only chooses one of the obvious Handel arias, Se pietà di me non senti, in which Cleopatra begs the gods to spare her lover’s life. In this case, the lover is Julius Caesar, but the programme also includes settings where the chosen one is Mark Antony: Hasse, in his serenata Antonio e Cleopatra and Alessandro Scarlatti in his opera Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra. Rarities by Graun, Legrenzi, Vivaldi, Mattheson and Sartorio complete an intriguing line up of well-contrasted arias.

Mühlemann has a bright, agile instrument with excellent diction, well suited to high-lying vocal fireworks. She’s especially engaging in numbers like Graun’s chirpy Tra le procelle assorto, which opens proceedings, and she decorates her da capos with energy and imagination. Of course, there’s a reason the Handel is so often done, and Mühlemann is at her most deliciously limpid here, but she runs it close in Hasse’s Quel candido armellino and can whip up a storm in his feisty Morte col fiero aspetto. La Folia Barockorchester under Robin Peter Müller is crisply supportive, and the whole is ideally engineered for balance.