Posts Tagged ‘Luca Pisaroni’

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.

Character? The Don Left Home Without It.

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on January 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Review – Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni – Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Leporello – Luca Pisaroni
Donna Anna – Diane Damrau
Don Ottavio – Rolando Villazón
Donna Elvira – Joyce DiDonato
Masetto – Konstantin Wolff
Zerlina – Mojca Erdmann

Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)

Don Giovanni is one of my favourite operas of all time. Indeed the first CD I ever bought was Haitink’s recording of Don Giovanni and to this day – while I have pretty much every other recording – it remains my favourite recording of this work. Haitink draws magnificent singing from the cast – yes even Maria Ewing – and his sense of pacing and drama is second to none. And no Don’s final cry is as chilling as Sir Thomas Allen’s.

On paper, this new recording of Don Giovanni has excellent prospects – a strong cast and an excellent conductor and orchestra.

But somewhere, somehow, it doesn’t fall into all the right places.

I know it is almost “common hackney’d” to say that – like The Godfather – this opera rises or falls on the Don. But is it true. The Don Giovanni character isn’t only the lead, but he is the foundation on which each and every reaction by every other character is played out upon.

The Don Giovanni in Opera North’s recent production wasn’t up to muster and sadly, on this recording neither is Ildebrando d’Arcangelo. It isn’t that he is a bad Don. He sings all the notes. But it is that he simply sings the notes. There is no depth or dimension, light or shade to either his voice or performance and consequently therefore his characterization is a cipher. This is a shame as I have seen him as Leporello at Covent Garden and even his solo recital CD was a stronger performance that we have here.

For me, the most telling moment isn’t in the more expected passages or arias but his performance in the quartet Non ti fidar, o misera. This is the very moment when Don Giovanni’s world because to unravel. In my opinion, he could have got away with the murder of the Commendatore up to this point, but from here on in it’s all downhill. And there is nothing from d’Arcangelo at this point that indicates either this, or the necessity suaveness of character that he realizes he needs if he is to dupe Donna Anna (again) and Don Ottavio.

And sadly this sense of a single dimension Don is evident throughout the opera. La ci darem la mano is tepid with single moments of loud bluster and only in Deh! Vieni alla finestra do we get even the smallest hint of what could have been.

And the closing scenes have none of the electricity and menace that is usually so evident. Indeed so lukewarm and lacklustre are the closing scenes that I’m surprised the Commendatore didn’t simply shrug and not bother. Hell would probably be a more interesting place without this Don Giovanni.

Similarly, casting Rolando Villazón seems an odd choice. Perhaps mentally sporting doublet and hose for Don Ottavio and the Spanish story confused him. For the most part he sings the role as if he is actually on the set of Don Carlo.

Konstantin Wolff is passable as Masetto and so it’s left for Luca Pisaroni to redeem the men of the cast. His Leporello is magnificent – confident as well as confidante, darkly humoured with just the right sneer to his voice. Madamina, il catalogo è questa, from his opening word is a musical equivalent of a money shot even if the orchestra is a little lacklustre. Indeed I couldn’t quite work out why Pisaroni wasn’t the Don sometimes.

And so to the women. Mojca Erdmann is as passable as her beau and while Diana Damrau takes a while to warm up at the beginning, hers is a formidable Donna Anna both musically as well as in terms of character. Of course it is in the two magnificent set pieces that Mozart wrote for this character that Damrau shines. While some sopranos see these more as opportunities for vocal athleticism than personality, Diana Damrau delivers both – pinpoint accuracy, brilliant singing and intense characterization.

For example, just listen to how Ms Damrau shades her voice and handles the words when recounting Don Giovanni’s assault before launching into a full-blooded reminiscence of her struggle. And all this before she launches into a magnificent rendition of Or sai chi l’onore.

Similarly Crudele … Non mi dir, bell’idol mio. Each phrase in the accompanied recitative is beautifully molded and the subsequent aria is a masterclass of how this aria should be sung. Not as a vehicle for vocal fireworks so much as a heartfelt plea to her fiancé. Although by this point in the opera I think she has pretty much made up her mind to dump the man.

And Joyce DiDonato – vocally superb as ever – brings just the right shade of insanity to Donna Elvira from her opening aria where she literally spits out ’empio’ to In quali ecessi … Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata where her technique is as much in evidence as her musicianship.

Sadly however – and through no fault of their own – both Mesdames Damrau and DiDonato don’t stand out because of the quality of their own individual performance. Rather they inadvertently suffer from the lacklustre contributions of their colleagues.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin more than ably conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra through a note-precise performance and you cannot fault his sympathetic support of the singers. But I did wont for greater orchestral characterization. Mozart filled the score with an incredibly amount of colour and bite and for the most part it isn’t much in evidence either in Nézet-Séguin’s conducting nor in the playing of the orchestra.

So all in all this Don Giovanni doesn’t add up for me. For the majority of the time it’s like looking at a watercolour copy of a Goya oil painting. The characters are all there but somehow the music making has got watered down.


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