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American Record Guide: (03/2021) 
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Reviewer: Charles Brewer


The title of this release, “La Francesina” (the little French woman), is the nickname by Handel’s rivals. When that group folded, she performed in operas and for Elisabeth Duparc (d.1778), a singer of French origin, trained in Italy, who was brought to England to sing in the “Opera of the Nobility”, formed oratorios by Handel from 1739 until 1749, when a new young soprano, Giulia Frasi, came to the composer’s attention.

This judicious selection from Handel’s lyrical and dramatic works supplies examples of the range of Duparc’s repertoire, from Michel in Saul to the title character in Semele. Sophie Junker studied in her native Belgium and at the Guildhall in London. Most of her earlier recordings have been smaller dramatic roles or soloist in larger choral works (Bach cantatas, Jan/Feb 2013; oratorios by Charpentier, Jan/Feb 2015). This is her first solo recording. The collection includes soprano arias from both Italian operas (Faramondo, Serse, both 1738, and Deidamia, 1741) and oratorios (Saul, 1739; Ode to St Cecilia’s Day, 1739; Semele and Joseph and his Brethren, both 1744; and Hercules, 1745).

Junker responds most affectively and effectively to the dramatic and musical demands of Handel’s lyrical writing, from the poignant invocation to music with solo cello from the Ode for St Cecilia’s Day, ‘What passion cannot music raise and quell’, to the passionate outbursts of ‘Va, perfido!’ from Deidamia. Particularity impressive and imaginative are her cadenzas. She is sensitively supported by the musicians of Le Concert de L’Hostel Dieu, who also supply three short orchestral interludes.

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