NEW YORK CITY: Ariodante
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In Review > North America


Harry Bicket & The English Concert | Carnegie Hall

In Review New York City Carnegie Ariodante lg 717
Joyce DiDonato at Carnegie Hall
© Jennifer Taylor

THE SUPERB CONCERT of Ariodante on Carnegie Hall’s main stage on April 30featured a soaring, energized Joyce DiDonato and a uniformly strong cast under Harry Bicket’s expert direction. Listening to the thunderous ovations during and after the opera, one hoped that the managements of New York’s two leading opera companies would see from the wild success of Bicket’s local appearances with his English Concert that Handel has not only superb exponents these days but a highly motivated public who will travel and buy seats to hear his works.

The English Concert is just terrific—a fleet and accurate Baroque ensemble fully responsive here to the vocalism they supported. Bicket led from the harpsichord, which he played with great conviction. All the continuo players performed admirably; but one leaves Ariodante remembering the bassoon, and Alberto Grazzi handled his portion of the stop-time miracle of “Scherza infida” as deftly and expressively as did DiDonato, who blended bitterly enunciated consonants with seemingly endless breath support and legato ease. The mezzo sounded in peak form from her first mellow arioso, “Qui d’amor,” and gave a generous, deeply chiseled and resonantly projected reading of one of her great assumptions. For such heartfelt artistry and beauty of tone in such technically and psychologically remarkable music, what could one offer but grateful smiles (with a healthy admixture of tears)? 

The opera requires two first-rate sopranos, and it got them in this performance. Christiane Karg’s darkly shining lyric soprano has placed her high in the current Mozart/Strauss pantheon in Europe. If not exactly Italianate, her voice’s liquid roundness and impressive control stood her in good stead for the marathon of lamenting arias Ginevra undertakes, as well as in two joyously flowing duets with the title hero. Mary Bevan, an adept Handelian with a pleasant, slightly whiter sound, made a finely enacted Dalinda. 

Sonia Prina’s gutsy contralto may no longer be in prime estate, but—kitted out in tough-guy Goth-wear and a neo-Mohawk—she barreled and careened her way through Polinesso with high conviction, abetted by native diction, occasional moments of relaxed beauty and what might be called aggressive aspiration in “Se l’inganno.” David Portillo, a tenor with a rising career in Mozart and bel canto, needs to expand his portfolio to encompass regular doses of Handel. His singing showed great lyric beauty in Lurcanio’s gentler utterances, rhythmic command and fleet accuracy in his martial numbers. Matthew Brook fielded a warm, agile, solid bass-baritone as the King, sounding rather muffled on the lowest notes Handel wrote for the great Gustavus Waltz; still, Brook gave a fully elaborated and moving dramatic performance above and beyond what one might have seen in a staged traversal. The courtier Odoardo has almost nothing to sing solo, but Tyson Miller showed cultivated style and a clear tenor when he joined the others in the brief choral numbers.  —David Shengold 

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