A rather colourless Tamerlano (La Monnaie webcast, 2015)

…the wheels on the Handel bus keep on rolling 😉 These past two weeks have been a whirlwind and though I watched things (this one whilst cooking), I couldn’t find the time to write. Now I’m stuck at home with a sinus infection and thus have no excuse…

Tamerlano: Cristophe Dumaux
Bajazete: Jeremy Ovenden
Asteria: Sophie Karthäuser
Andronico: Delphine Galou
Irene: Ann Hallenberg
Leone: Nathan Berg
Zaide: Caroline D’Haese

Conductor: Christophe Rousset | Les Talens Lyriques

Tamerlano. A fine work well conducted. In the past I found it dragging but it seems it doesn’t have to be. Good job Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques.

Pierre Audi’s production. It’s a modern traditional production in the sense it’s traditional in the contemporary sense, not how the ’80s or the ’60s would’ve thought. The classical but abstract sets aren’t bad but the costumes sorely lack in colour. Why have period costumes if you’re doing away with the pizzazz? But it fits in with the other Drottnigholm productions.

The singing. With that cast I was looking forward to some top notch singing. It was indeed never below good. Delphine Galou, whom I don’t remember hearing before, impressed me favourably with her proper mezzo contralto voice. During Andronico’s duet with Asteria I heard a bit of Mijanovic in her low notes = bonus, as Mijanovic sadly remains MIA. I’ll keep an eye out for other roles she’ll pop in.

Strange to say I didn’t think Irene fit Hallenberg’s voice. As I was saying to Leander the other day, I couldn’t find fault with the singing per se – and certainly not with her acting – but there was something elusive that just didn’t work for me. For instance my favourite aria in the whole piece, Par che mi nasca in seno, seemed unfocused emotionally. Very weird, as I normally think of Hallenberg as someone who excels at sensitive stuff. Bonitatibus’ cautiously optimistic rendition remains my favourite (from the Pinnock recording, currently unavailable on ze tube).

Dumaux was entertaining as usual in a bratty role, Ovenden sounded like he should sing Tito (which I know he’s done) and was suitably grand in his long dying scene. Karthäuser, whom I first encountered as Ilia in Jacobs’ Idomeneo, continues not to be a favourite voice with her grating top and indifferent middle.

Conclusion. Very listenable but not all that as a whole.

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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on March 14, 2015, in baroque and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. i listened to this twice.. thinking i might have missed something the first time.. but.. am always curious though whether it’s b/c of the muddled sound coming off the cam-corder instead of recording on stage.. like alcina in wien that i kept babbling about all the time..
    galou is a contralto! in fact now i can’t get this tune out of my head have to download + convert to mp3 + upload to player just so i can walk out of the haus 😀 . i didn’t know about her at all until last year reading up Anik’s post on L’Incoronazione Di Dario in bremen.. and subsequently finding her singing loads of baroque music..
    sorry to hear about the sinus infection! blame them flowers!

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    • she sounds more contralto in your link! Maybe I need to listen to the whole thing again 😉 but surely that’s where I got the Mijanovi link. Lovely tone, so cheers for the link. I also like the conductor’s hair! 😀

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  2. I was very disappointed by the Alcina-Tamerlano coupling proposed by La Monnaie (luckily I didn’t spend money on those as I had initially planned and saw them on streaming).

    First of all I didn’t like the staging, in neither of them. It’s just… boring. Unfortunately it seems to be the mark of Pierre Audi, whose Cesare in Paris left me completely unmoved. I see not much difference between this and a representation in concert form. The acting is contrite and does not help to understand neither the music nor the action. It does not help that there is no sense of the meaning of the words in the delivery of the recitativi, which are just rushed with no theatrical sense.
    It’s kind of sad that after watching this Tamerlano I watched an old DVD of Mozart’s Betulia Liberata (the Salzburg 2006 edition – Ovenden being the only connection between the two sets) and I was amazed by the difference in the understanding of the recitativi. A second-rated oratorio was more engaging than one of Handel’s best operas! (two, because the problem is present, even worse, in the Alcina).

    Les Talens and Rousset are quite on-point in the Tamerlano, much less in the Alcina which sounds under-rehearsed. Still I question several of the tempi of Rousset, usually too fast.

    The singing is generally good but not exceptional, surely not exciting (the exception being the wonderful Piau as Alcina). In this Tamerlano, Galou has the intention but not the means, meaning that she simply has not the volume needed to sing on stage. Hallenberg is good as expected but strangely she’s not my favourite Irene, she lacks something (I blame partially the staging). Ovenden does its job in giving some spine to Bajazet, and Dumaux is good but less pointed and excessive than I expected as Tamerlano (almost subdued, as much as this role allows it). I quite liked Karthäuser.

    I personally think that proposing two Handel operas in alternation is just too much for the same ensemble and stage director. So the La Monnaie experiment was quite interesting but ultimately a failure.

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    • I felt the same in regards to Galou and Hallenberg. Lovely voice for Galou but udnerpowered. I’m still perplexed by Hallenberg. I guess she can’t always excel even in this repertoire.

      I also agree with you about the tempi, especially in Alcina – way too quick, but at least not as quick as in that recording from Beaune where McCreesh is just mad.

      Being in the process of watching Alcina I’ve been wondering why Audi thought it a good idea to share the decors and costumes. I for one don’t see much of a connection between the two operas.

      I suppose without much stage design he thought to have them act all busy behind whoever was currently singing. It was like that in the Drottningholm Clemenza di Tito, so maybe that is the connction.

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      • I’m fine to see activity behind, but 1) it must be done in such a way that doesn’t distract too much from the singer and the music, and 2) it has to make sense!
        For the most part, it gave me the feeling he didn’t have many ideas, nor a general concept to follow.

        It’s a fun thing about the tempi: sometimes I think that the issue is not the speed itself, but the -intention-. Using an example from a completely different musical environment: many of the movements in the Bach cantatas conducted by Suzuki are taken at a relatively fast tempo compared to other recordings. However the phrasing and the “direction” given by the conductor is so clear that it never feels rushed or out of place.

        I think they just should have worked more on the operas, to get something meaningful. I really had the feeling they were going in automatic pilot especially during the recitativi (the singers AND the conductor).

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