Archive for the ‘Harry Bickett’ Category

Bravo Radamisto

In Baroque, Handel, Harry Bickett, Opera, Review on February 13, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Review – Radamisto (Barbican, Sunday 10 February 2013)

Radamisto – David Daniels
Zenobia – Patricia Bardon
Tiridate – Luca Pisaroni
Tigrane – Elizabeth Watts
Polissena – Brenda Rae
Farasmane – Robert Rice

The English Concert
Conductor – Harry Bickett

Handel composed Radamisto to open the Royal Academy of Music in 1720 and it was followed by a series of operas – Floridante, Lotario and Flavio – that were subsequently eclipsed by Giulio Cesare in 1724.

On the strength of the concert performance at the Barbican on Sunday night, Radamisto deserves to stand outside the shade of its illustrious successor. The beauty and depth of Handel’s music in this opera was brought to life by an incredibly strong cast and the English Concert under the expert direction of Harry Bickett.

And this in spite of an announcement before the overture that Mesdames Bardon, Watts and Rae were suffering colds.

Following a sprightly, well-placed overture the richness of Handel’s musical invention comes to the fore immediately with Polissena’s Sommi Dei which immediately lays bare the queen’s character. And despite her indisposition, Brenda Rae carefully judged and beautifully sang this tricky aria with its high tessitura and exposed vocal line. Indeed throughout Ms Rae delivered the most beautiful singing of the night. She has impressive technique and a bright yet light soprano that can both negotiate Handel’s coloratura but also switch to land the most delicate phrasing and float top notes with elegant ease. Her second aria – Tu vuoi ch’io parta? – with its inbuilt dramatic pauses, was also delivered with great poise and vocal security and her third act Barbaro! partirò, ma sdegno poi verrà was both vocally incisive and thrilling. I see from her biography that Ms Rae is a member of Oper Frankfurt and I am seriously considering a trip to Frankfurt in May to see her in Giulio Cesare.

Patricia Bardon had a more gradual take off but proved to be an impressive Zenobia. Her rich and resonant voice might not always find the right balance – as with her recent Cornelia – with the vocal line but hers is always an impassioned performance. Son contenta di morire was suitably vehement while Quando mai, spietata sorte – its beguiling simplicity underlined by its gentle scoring for oboe – was beautifully sung. And the duet with her husband Radamisto – indeed the entire scene – was one of the evening’s many highlights.

In the title role was David Daniels who remains one of the leading countertenors on the stage today. His soft grained voice did not always carry over the orchestral, but there was no doubt about his singing – musically intelligent, impassioned and technically faultless. His opening number, Cara Sposa was a lesson in how to sing a trademark Handel aria, exposed save for the continuo with a beauty of line that took my breath away. Similarly, Daniels’ performance of Ombra cara da mia sposa underlined why he remains one of the leading Handel interpreters on the stage. A purity of line was infused with incredible pathos. And as I have already mentioned, his duet with Bardon was joyous, their voices blending beautifully.

Yet when he needed to, Daniels could produce the necessary fire. Vanne, sorella ingrata more than ably demonstrated that Daniels has maintained a fine vocal instrument capable of the trickiest of runs that were delivered with great aplomb. And Daniels’ ability to spin out long, elegant phrases was fully exploited in Dolce bene di quest’alma.

As Tiridate Luca Pisaroni was perfectly cast. His deep and resonant bass suited the music like a glove and he was brilliant at capturing the menace of the role as evidenced in Si, che ti renderai. However the highlight was swaggering aria Alzo al volo di ia fama with its resplendently played natural horns that rightly deserved a cheer on the evening.

Special mention must go to for Robert Rice’s appearance as Farasmane. And a shame that they did not include his single aria.

But the strongest performance of the evening came from Ellzabeth Watts, a soprano who I first saw as a Young Singer at English National Opera. As Tigrane she threw herself into the role with great relish including frock coat and knee-high boots. With her bright and richly honeyed soprano each of her arias was delivered, despite a cold, with a high level of musical and technical accomplishment. None of the coloratura seemed a challenge to her vocal abilities and her da capo ornamentation was well judged. From her opening Deh, fuggi un traditore it was clear to me not only that Handel had been at is most inspired but that she relished the part from opening bar to final cadence.

If you haven’t already, snap up her recital discs of JS Bach and Richard Strauss.

More Elizabeth Watt please.

And of course the quartet in the closing act not only uniquely highlighted Handel’s dramatic genius but enabled us to enjoy for the cast singing together. Although I dispute the spurious claim in the programme that the quartet looks forward to those of Mozart and Verdi.

Supporting this incredible cast of singers was The English Concert conducted by Harry Bickett. The warmth of sound from the entire ensemble reminded me why The English Concert is one of the leading – and oldest – original instrument ensembles around. And Bickett is a consummate Handelian. They played the entire score with great panache and my only regret is that they didn’t include the instrumental movements from Radamisto or at least the famous passacaglia that was so beautifully played a few nights before at the Barbican.

But this is the small reservation. An incredible cast of singers accompanied with incredible verve and attention to detail under the direction of Harry Bicket created a memorable performance.


Aria For … Wednesday – Io t’abbraccio (Rodelinda)

In Aria For ..., Baroque, Harry Bickett, Opera on January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Handel’s Rodelinda contains some of his most ravishing music and nothing more beautiful that the duet that closes the Second Act – Io t’abbracio – here sung by Sarah Connolly and Rosemary Joshua.

Written in 1719, for me this is a greater “fare thee well” duet than the one composed by Handel for the closing of the second act of Giulio Cesare.

It’s the utter simplicity of this duet that makes is so effective. The dropping vocal phrases, juxtaposed and contrasted with an independent instrumental line – which with any other composer would just be textbook Doctrine of Affections technique – are here molded by Handel into something wonderful and poignant. And in the middle section, Handel reverses the direction of the vocal line, again a simple textbook technique, but done with such style.

The music is further heightened by the impassioned performance of Mesdames Connolly and Joshua – possibly two of the greatest Handel interpreters on the stage today. And what makes this a great performance is their delicate, intelligent and emotionally sensitive embellishments in the returning da capo.

And this duet is only one small part of an excellent album of opera and oratorio duets with the bright and alert accompaniment of The English Concert conducted by the ever brilliant Harry Bickett.


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