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PERFORMING ARTS | Recordings

**** HANDEL: "Alcina", Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, other singers; Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, conductor, Erato

May 21, 2000|CHRIS PASLES

This is an intoxicating recording of Handel's endlessly inventive and complex opera, captured live in Robert Carsen's enchanting production as it ravished Paris last summer. Lucky Chicago saw it early this year.

Every superlative is warranted. The singers sweep all before them. Fleming is a creamy Alcina. Graham, a heroic Ruggiero. Kathleen Kuhlmann, a steadfast Bradamante. Timothy Robinson, a devoted Oronte. Juanita Lascarro, a touching Oberto.

Which singer captivates the most depends entirely upon which one you're listening to at the time. But even among such exalted peers, Natalie Dessay's coloratura flights as Morgana are memorable.

Laurent Naouri's Melisso is the one weak link in the chain, but his duties are minor.

Christie conducts with joy and love, and his Les Arts Florissants play ravishingly.

Expect some stage noise and accept audience applause overlapping only the very ends of the acts. They are small inconveniences.

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