Emöke Barath, Amanda Forsythe, Colin Balzer, Christian Immler, Zachary Wilder, Jesse Blumberg, Teresa Wakim, Jan Kobow • Handel’s Almira with the BEMF • The Boston Early Music Festival has recorded George Frideric Handel’s very first opera, Almira, Queen of Castile, with a superlatively sumptuous ensemble. For its previous recordings of Baroque operas this successful ensemble has won prizes such as the Grammy, the German Record Critics Annual Prize, and the Echo Klassik. The Hungarian soprano Emõke Baráth sings the role of Almira with a choice ensemble of singers, all of whom have performed in the world’s most renowned concert halls and opera houses. • Handel’s Almira is based on a freely invented plot featuring fine entertainment in the form of love and marriage schemes among the nobility, infidelity and mistaken identities, and a happy ending brought about by a court servant’s negotiations. This work was presented at the Hamburg Opera House in 1705 about twenty times and with great success. At the time Reinhard Keiser was the director of the Hamburg Opera, and he merits great praise for giving the young Handel, who then was earning his livelihood as a second tutti violinist in the orchestra pit, to compose and present an opera under his supervision. Handel’s Almira would as a work not be imaginable apart from the special circumstances prevailing at the HamburgOpera: various styles and various languages are mixed, and it includes German and Italian arias, vocal dance numbers and da capo pieces, as well as instrumental ballet inserts of larger format. The result is indeed a colorful mixture, and the melodic signature so typical of Handel is already omnipresent and creates a fascinating unity – now heard with a top-quality ensemble!