Opera Ariodante (Barbican)

Ceasefire's opera critic, Paul Guest, reviews a production of Handel's Ariodante at Barbican Hall.

Classical & Opera, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Friday, May 27, 2011 6:00 - 1 Comment

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Joyce DiDonato

By Paul Guest

Ariodante, Barbican Hall
(Concert performance)
George Frederic Handel

Conducted by Alan Curtis
Il Complesso Barocco.

Joyce DiDonato, Karina Gauvin, Nicholas Phan, Sabina Puertolas, Matthew Brook, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani.

An ensemble of great potential, Handel operas can be devastatingly boring and was it boring? No – it wasn’t.
As DiDonato said through her twitter account she is “astonished at how powerful opera can be in concert: No sets or costumes just intensify the emotion”.

DiDonato sang with guts: She had, by far, the best voice in the ensemble. She performed the title role with a gorgeous clean tone with vocal lines decorated like a six year old’s birthday party (in a good way). The clarity in her voice was immense and she gave Handel some kick. She exhaled her role in physical emotion and in fine voice.

The soprano Karina Gauvin also sang with gusto and heartache, with strong decorative ornaments. The rest of the cast were apparently weak in comparison. Tenor Nicholas Phan strangled his top notes and there was nothing entirely special about Marie-Nicole Lemieux – I think they should have got in a countertenor to sing the role of Polinesso although Lemieux did display a whole range of physical emotion in her role as the Duke of Albany.

May I mention again how wonderful Joyce DiDonato was? Notably the Act 2 aria ‘Scherza infida’ was tremendously powerful and precise with so elegantly decorative vocal lines. With her beautiful vocal supremacy, you would have thought a better instrumental ensemble would accompany her. And yet, the Il Complesso Barocco were really not very interesting; they were together in time and precise but I would have liked something a bit more from them- the music dragged on a bit in Curtis’ hands.

Talking of Alan Curtis- his conducting was terrible; it looked more as if it were ‘daddy-dancing’ than conducting, plus the orchestra always referred to the ensemble leader. It did confuse me as to why Curtis couldn’t have led from the harpsichord.

The opera, originally written for what was then the new Covent Garden Theatre, was safely back on home ground in some rather wonderful hands.

Paul Guest is Ceasefire‘s Opera critic. He also writes for Classical Music Magazine, Gramophone and is the resident interviewer at Opera Britannia.

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Operation Guest – Does Opera in concert work? – Ceasefire Magazine
Jun 3, 2011 10:52

[…] Ariodante was performed at the Barbican Hall last Wednesday in concert form and it got me thinking about, […]

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