Though Handel occupies pride of place on this recording’s cover, this work rightly belongs to Leonardo Vinci, with Handel having revised it for its London premiere a decade after Vinci’s death, with added arias by Hasse. Yes, there are multiple cooks in the kitchen here, but Handel’s adaptation comes out very well on this recording.
Having to satisfy two prima donnas, Vinci wrote both Didone and Enea for women, casting that’s retained by Katschner. Although to me American soprano Robin Johannsen has a slightly monochromatic sound, she’s a stylish singer who makes for a fine Queen of Carthage. She also has a good line in imperiousness, as demonstrated when rebuffing Jarba’s suit in Son Regina, e son amante. As her Enea, Dutch mezzo Olivia Vermeulen impresses. Technically irreproachable, she phrases beautifully and makes much of Metastasio’s text, managing a sympathetic portrait of the man.
The rest of the cast is good, if not quite on their leading ladies’ level. Antonio Giovannini makes for a suitably repellent Jarba, but his intonation is insecure at times and some phrases feel strangely short breathed. Despite this, his Mi tradi l’infida sorte is a highlight of the disc and betrays little technical difficulty. The Lautten Compagney plays with real gusto under Katschner, providing sensitive support for the singers as well as plenty of drama.