Stutzmann and Orfeo 55’s treasure chest (Wigmore Hall, 2 October 2016)

Stutzmann and Orfeo 55 got one of the most enthusiastic receptions I’ve heard at Wigmore Hall. A lady next to me, who confessed to her seatmate that she had never heard of Stutzmann before the show, sounded like she became a convert about the time Stutzmann turned her note stand around and opened her mouth.

Initially this show was supposed to be comprised of more obscure morsels but for whatever reason a change of programme was announced a month or two back. Judging by how packed and buzzing the hall looked nobody was complaining – especially since we did not get this show when she was touring it originally.

Handel: Heroes from the Shadows
Nathalie Stutzmann and Orfeo 55

Overture Giulio Cesare in Egitto HWV17
Sinfonia from Act 3 Poro, re dell’Indie HWV28
L’aure che spira Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Sinfonia from Act 3 Serse (‘Xerxes’) HWV40
(I) Larghetto Concerto Grosso in E minor
Son qual stanco pellegrino Arianna in Creta HWV32
(III) Allegro Concerto Grosso in E minor
Sinfonia from Act 3 Orlando HWV31
Pena, tiranna Amadigi di Gaula HWV11

Those who have seen Stutzmann live know the turning of the stand is done with a lot of dramatic flair (albeit of the understated kind). In fact, that is one Stutzmann’s strengths. It’s not just a show, it’s a performance with a start and an end. Her attention to detail in conducting, singing and performance is second to none.

My reaction to seeing the Overture to Giulio Cesare in the programme was a bit meh. Perhaps because of its over exposure I’ve never properly warmed up to this opera. Don’t get me wrong, I do get into it if I start watching/listening but I don’t have that feeling of “you know what I’d like to listen to again?” with it.

Well, wrong! First of all the overture is rather perky. Also Orfeo 55 are no slouches and sounded on and energetic from the getgo. Like I said before, you can tell they play a lot together because it’s a finely tuned machine, the different sections sound so good together and Stutzmann gives them all their chance to shine. With them you have a very good chance of finding all sorts of things in the score you never noticed before.

I was even more wrong about L’aure che spira. With Giulio Cesare I almost invariably focus on the Cesare/Cleopatra thread (surprisingly, I know) so this aria was almost new to me. It’s also got the added bonus of noticing my seatmate’s mouth gape at Stutzmann’s unexpected sound. Have you noticed the effect of something you like on others have an effect on you? Anyway, it’s the kind of semi-bravura aria that fits Stutzmann’s mellow voice.

The instrumental pieces were characterised by Stutzmann’s architectural sense of the whole, with the instrumental lines as building blocks and a lot of contrasts emphasised between the different sections. I like her brand of conducting, it’s always illuminating and easy to follow, with a very muscular base in the rhythmically driven low strings.


(I) Allegro Sinfonia in B flat major HVW338
Sinfonia from Act 3 Partenope HWV27
Son contenta di morire Radamisto HWV12
Voi che udite il mio lamento Agrippina HWV6
Concerto Grosso in D minor Op. 3 No. 5 HWV316
(III) Adagio
(IV) Allegro ma non troppo
(V) Allegro
Non so, se sia la speme Serse (‘Xerxes’)
(IV) Allegro Concerto Grosso in G minor
Sarò qual vento Alessandro HWV21


Dover, giustizia, amor Ariodante
Senti, bell’idol mio Silla

For the Concerti grossi in this section, Stutzmann chose what I would call a “Venetian feel”. Last time I saw her I sensed her voice and personality fit the more relaxed, melodic Venetian Baroque than the very structured, “dramatic Baroque” of Handel. But she can make Handel work for her without a doubt. And this Venetian Handel was very fetching indeed and I would like to listen to it again.

It doesn’t come off in the version above (or in general) but last night in the hall Sarò qual vento had a prominently wistful tinge. I was unexpectedly moved by it, right around the time the A section repeat started, to the point I wanted the show to end there. This has never happened before but her voice fits that wistfulness so well I just felt like staying cocooned in that bitter sweet place. I also wanted the very happy convert next to me to stop grinning and looking around, for fear of her noticing I was on the brink of tears when she was ready to whoop mid-aria.

Luckily, as soon as the first bars of Dover, giustizia… started I was right back in my element. There’s never enough Polinesso in recitals, dear contraltos. Please, feel free to bring him in 😀 Anyway, Stutzmann does a great rendition (pointed to me a while ago by thadieu), with the kind of subtle, breezy irony that fits Polinesso’s self assured arogance. She tweaks the words in the title just a bit on every repeat and every time she added a bit of sarcasm, my seatmates would chuckle loudly. I don’t know if she’s sung him in a production but without a doubt she’d make a great Polinesso. I would be looking forward to his seduction of Dalinda, which I’m sure she’d pull off with the right balance of charm and evil. And she’d probably laugh Ariodante off the stage 😉

She finished with Senti, bell’idol mio from Silla (yes, Handel wrote about him, too) which is just the kind of amorous thing (“Venetian”) that her voice is made for and is sure to turn the audience into eternal worshippers. Whilst she was wooing us with her delicately adoring inflections I thought to myself, imagine someone sing that kind of thing like that specifically to you? That, my friends, is how seduction sounds like. We are only human, eh? Anyway, this was also a moment for her theorbist to spin us around his finger(s). The audience was putty.

I’m telling you, Venetian is the way to go, Handel or no Handel.

ps: sorry for any typos, I’m rushing to work.

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on October 3, 2016, in baroque, live performances, mezzos & contraltos, wigmore hall and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. fanning myself with this virtual program book
    thank you for the very descriptive write-up! (completely agree on the muscular drive particularly in the string section)

  2. Argh, Anik beat me to the first comment! blame it on the postdoc!

    i can’t believe you get to hear Polinesso perverted defense of justice, love, and peace 😀 . Actually also from her duet with Baráth i’ve been thinking we really need more NS singing in fully staged operas! (but I think she’s too busy for that now). At least this justifies my packing bags and running after her (conducting!!) Messiah.. though i’ve never the pleasure to hear her sing live. But yes, the orchestra! and Wigmore hall combination, i’m turning tooooootally green in envy. And i’m glad you get to experience this live (her orchestra, really! and her conducting, and lucky bastard to hear her sing live twice :p ). Am also really having a ball reading your description of other people’s reaction :D.

    • hehe, I was very pleased to hear Dover, giustizia…! My face just lit up.

      She could conduct and star in a production – when she’s done with her scene she can just jump in the pit and pick from where she left it 😉

      Like you said, Wigmore Hall is a thing to treasure. Hope she can fit it in her schedule again (maybe one time when you can also attend) because with the reception she got both times they will definitely make room for her again.

      I didn’t even say anything about the lady in front of me with the dikey haircut (squirrel tail on the left side, which was also the side I was on, so at all times I had to see Stutzmann through the squirrel tail. One day I will bring scissors to a show).

  3. “With them you have a very good chance of finding all sorts of things in the score you never noticed before.”

    Yeah, it’s this that I enjoyed her conducting and her orchestra so much. I’d say especially for pieces we think we know, if they play 5x, i’d pack my tent and bring paper + pencil 5x along to hear the pieces deconstructed with new angles of analyses / understanding / trying to fit things in new light. Now suddenly i’m imagining them playing Jommelli’s Il Vologeso 😀

    “And she’d probably laugh Ariodante off the stage”

    imagine a VK’s Ariodante to NS’s Polinesso! (well, they might spar and discover they are so alike that it’s a great match, thus heading off together ditching Ginevra + Dalinda and all!)

    • I have to say, you get this things better than me. I’ve only “got” a good feel of the orchestra with a few conductors and usually in things that I know very well (Tito). Most of the time it just sounds pleasant or like something’s a bit wrong but I can’t quite say what. With her I feel like I get it.

      Vologeso too and other things as well, especially from that period and before. Now that Wigmore also does concert opera they might try to get her (one hopes!). But if TadW gets her for similar I will make time for that as well!

      Her and VK as Polinesso and Ariodante, heh, interesting image. But your turn of the story is very funny.

      • “I have to say, you get this things better than me. ”

        I’d say to the contrary, esp. so after reading this 🙂 .. i was thinking you have description for what she’s doing whereas the only thing i get was “oh, this is different, what is she trying to do here??” . But i think if she conducts Tito we’ll ALL have a ball at hearing new things and seeing new angles! or even works we listen to a lot, Alcina, Ariodante, Juditha Triumphans, Capuleti! things which at least i’m familiar enough with (hearing) the music to catch new angles.. but as far as her Schubert’s symphony is concern, i can’t tell a thing :D.

        (and as you said, perhaps it’s easier to hear early music than Strauss.. because yes, i’m still thinking of that wall of waves hitting and engulfing me from all angles..)

  4. :-), back again here, reading

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