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Vivaldi, Darius and the Shroud of Turin

It’s official, thadieu and I have our tickets for the very silly L’incoronazione di Dario at Torino’s Teatro Regio, where we’ll see this badarse cast under Dantone’s (who else? He loves this one) baton:

Dario, che viene incoronato re dei persiani tenore Carlo Allemano
Statira, principessa semplice, primogenita
di Ciro contralto

Sara Mingardo
Argene, sorella minore di Statira contralto Delphine Galou
Niceno, filosofo baritono Riccardo Novaro
Alinda, principessa di Media, amante
di Oronte soprano

Roberta Mameli
Oronte, nobile perfetto, pretendente
di Statira mezzosoprano

Lucia Cirillo
Arpago, pretendente di Statira soprano Veronica Cangemi
Flora, damigella di corte, confidente delle due
principesse contralto

Romina Tomasoni
Ombra di Ciro tenore Cullen Gandy

So we know the contraltos but what of the baritone? He was also in the original recording as well as at Festival de Beaune:

And here’s Sr Novaro singing not Vivaldi but spinning rather well on that horse statue:

Whilst scratching my no so cosmopolitan head regarding things to do in Torino other than watching contraltos and friends, a buddy reminded me of the famous shroud.

Jesus in the shroud, posing suspiciously like a medieval knight would

Why of course! Who wouldn’t want to see that? Except, upon investigation, it turns out that it’s not that often on display. 9/10 times you’re likely to see a copy. Which means you see a copy of a… fantasy. About right for the post truth era 😉 Though we hope all the above musicians show up in old skool real fashion.

Oreste, Juditha triumphans and Ariodante in the months to come

Here are some reasons why Handel’s pasticcio of own arias, Oreste, is a good idea for ROH’s Young Artists Autumn Show.

One. A who’s who of core Handel collaborators sang it:

Oreste mezzo-soprano castrato Giovanni Carestini
Ifigenia, priestess of Diana soprano Cecilia Young
Ermione, Oreste’s wife soprano Anna Maria Strada del Pò
Pilade, faithful friend and companion of Oreste tenor John Beard
Filotete, captain of King Toante’s guard contralto Maria Caterina Negri

Two. Some rocking music:

Pensieri, voi mi tormentate (Agrippina)
Agitato da fiere tempeste (Ricardo primo) Fagioli | Stutzmann
Dite pace e fulminate (Sosarme)
Empio, se mi dai vita (Radamisto, though there it’s called Vile, se mi dai vita)
Se’l caro figlio (Siroe)
Dopo l’orrore (Ottone)
Ah, mia cara (Floridante) the best Handel duet – ever? alone worth the price of admission
Tu di pieta mi spogli (Siroe)
Mi lagnerò, tacendo (Siroe)

Barbican. Though it remains a staunch purveyor of Baroque music, the Barbican has gone mad on prices and terrible on spelling (have a drink for each one you spot in the screen cap below), but still:


For this 16 May 2017 performance of Ariodante I got a Balcony £30 ticket and I advise interested parties to avoid the overhang at the back of the stalls. Now let’s hope nobody changes their mind until then.

But before May 2017 we have Vivaldi’s mezzo/contralto heaven Juditha triumphans on 2 November 2016. And you will soon see why I made the effort:

Vivaldi Juditha Triumphans

Magdalena Kožená Juditha
Delphine Galou Holofernes ❤ 😀
Ann Hallenberg Vagaus ❤
Romina Basso Ozias
Silke Gaeng Abra
Andrea Marcon director | Venice Baroque Orchestra

Not to say that the music alone isn’t worth your money wise choice of seat but DG in the flesh! I hope the sound carries well to where I got a seat on the left side of the Circle. And the others are very fine also (AH! as they say Ah, AH! 4 times in a year?! Spoiled, I tells ya), less so Ms Juditha but at least she has a pleasant voice.

Here‘s Sardelli’s take on it (of whose angular style I’m very fond), with DG and AH, and here is Marcon’s Venice Baroque Orchestra, which is closer to what we’re in for (for my ears the choir is a bit too soprano-flighty).

PS: Sorry for misspelling triumphans more often than not…

Rockin’ Griselda (Cadogan Hall, 18 September 2014)

Ever notice how in 18th century opera seria the title character does not sing the biggest number(s)? This is a typical opera seria libretto, boasting a ruler who’s more open minded that his subjects1 and a strong woman who goes through much before the tangled plot is happily resolved. There are no murders but there’s a kidnapping attempt and a gracious pardon from on high. The libretto is rife with metaphorical storms and wild beasts.

Griselda: Hilary Summers (contralto) griselda
Roberto: Andrew Watts (counter-tenor)
Ottone: Erica Eloff (soprano en travesti)
Gualtiero: Ronan Busfield (tenor)
Costanza: Kiandra Howarth (soprano)
Corrado: Tom Verney (counter-tenor)
Conductor: Thomas Foster | Opera Settecento

This was my first time at Cadogan Hall (off Sloane Square) and what an auspicious one! A few months ago I made time to listen to Griselda in its entirety and discovered there’s a lot more to it beside Agitata da due venti and Dopo un’orrida procella. I dully got a ticket to this concert performance and awaited it with some trepidation. It exceeded my expectations.

It seems to me that the major problem an opera director faces today is that the audience for which these operas were written had disappeared. (Captain Obvious alive and kicking on Amazon)

That is certainly not true for Baroque opera! The audience tonight – and every other night I’ve attended a Baroque opera – looked like they were already ancient when I was born. I’m sure they’re hiding hoop dresses and powder wigs in their closets. Why is it that young people would rather see Mimi whinge than watch in amazement as singers negotiate difficult coloratura? With Baroque horns! Come on, horns: they make the heart swell. Anyway 😉

Opera Settecento and Maestro Foster were very supportive. As often the case with Baroque, it was all about the singers and I was sat close enough to even see their facial expressions. Though a concert performance, all of them looked like they were having a good time and were wonderfully committed in their vocal acting. They must’ve fed off the audience’s appreciation, because they seemed more and more relaxed as the evening progressed. It’s hard to imagine them doing more had it been staged.

Contralto Hilary Summers in the title role had a strong stage presence and acting chops, a warm tone and meshed with the orchestra beautifully. Countertenor Andrew Watts as Costanza’s lover, Roberto, showed off impressive ease at the top and let it rip to much applause in his bravura aria. Kiandra Howarth, whom I noticed in JPYA’s Summer Performance this past July, was spirited throughout as Costanza. She had to take on that mofo, Agitata da due venti, and did admirably. I’d say the voice needs a bit more polish but I’ve no other complaints. Tenor Ronan Busfield as Griselda’s royal hubby, Gualtiero, already had some fiendish coloratura within the first five minutes of the show. He tossed it off with impressive confidence. Vivaldi made sure to give Gualtiero more of the same in the upcoming acts and he rolled with the punches. It’s a mofo part, I tells ya. Counternor Tom Verney didn’t have that much to sing as Corrado but got the other horned aria, Alle minacce di fiera belva and was appropriately heroic.

I left soprano Erica Eloff (as the stalkerish Ottone) last because WOW. I didn’t know of her, so she came out the left field. Holy mother of agility and lovely pianissimos! Gorgeous and confident singing, easy top, solid middle – and a lovely tone, especially for the first two soulful arias. Add to that great acting, although maybe playing Ottone’s defeat for laughs wasn’t very opera seria 😉 But you know I’m easily amused. She unquestionably aced Dopo un’orrida procella. But even before that, in fact, right from Ottone’s first lament it was obvious that she just owned it. It’s not every day that a singer just grabs you the first time you hear them and it’s even better when that’s live. The only thing I could hope for – and I’m only saying this because I liked her singing so much – is a bit more heft to the voice.

An outstanding evening. Pity Griselda is so seldom performed, it should get back into the repertoire as it’s easily one of the most entertaining Baroque operas I’ve heard so far.

  1. Gualtiero doesn’t care about social standing and marries shepherdess Griselda for love, much to his people’s displeasure. Kinda like in Anna Nicole, right? Poor girl marries rich and tries to be a good mother at the same time. Except with happy ending. Them 18th century optimists! 

“Has Dorothea Röschmann’s voice changed?”

… asked a reader and the internets pointed this way. Gentle reader, yes, it has changed, but what time frame did you have in mind? The past year? 5 years? 15 years? Ewa Podles was once a mezzo (exactly 37 years, 3 months and 1 day ago 😉 ). Most if not all voices change, don’t they? DR isn’t a mezzo yet, not even a dramatic soprano (not that she should be) but the voice has gained volume since the time she sang, say, In furore giustissimae irae, which was 20 years ago. But I’d like to hear her sing this today still. It’s a great motet and I’m glad for this question since it reminded me about it.