Review of the international Handel festival in Göttingen 2021: Ariodante

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(Photo: Théodore da Silva)

Just behind Göttingen station is the Lokhalle, a large industrial building built between 1917 and 1920, which until 1976 was used for repairing locomotives, when it was closed and sold for development. Fortunately, it was not demolished with the other buildings on the site. Instead, it has been converted into an events center that includes, among other things, three large halls. Its main hall, a huge space with a capacity of 4000 seats, was chosen to host the performance of “Ariodante” by the Handel International Festival in Göttingen. Its pleasant acoustics, superb sight lines and oceans of legroom made it an ideal venue for the concert.

The stage was well organized, with Laurence Cummings conducting the harpsichord in the center surrounded by the orchestra, with a choir stationed in rows behind him. The front of the stage was reserved for soloists when they sang. When they weren’t performing, they sat on the sides, the men on the right, the women on the left. However, as the singers sat intently facing the audience in an orderly row, patiently waiting for their musical signal to come forward, the male singers sat in groups at right angles to each other, some of whom had the Looks like you’re in a tax office waiting room, bored and neglected. It was quite shocking to see. Why not have them sit behind a dark curtain if sitting for long periods of time was going to be too difficult?

During a concert, it is up to the singers to carry the story, because if the public wants to grasp the dramatic context with all its nuances, it is their voices that will have to provide it. There is no decor or special effects and the possibility of physical expression is limited. Vocal beauty is seldom sufficient on its own, singers must incorporate dramatic expressiveness into their performance if they are to convince. For this rendition of “Ariodante,” all three singers were excellent in this regard, producing performances of high quality and dramatic force.

Singers singing excellence

Mezzo-soprano Emily Fons led the way in the title role of Ariodante with an iridescent performance in which the radiant beauty of her voice perfectly combined with the depth of expression she injected into her vocals. She set up her stand in her first aria “Qui d’amore nel suo linguaggio”, a reflection on love using pastoral images, with an emotionally well-defined interpretation in which her tonal beauty, soft color and his attractive phrasing impressed. In the virtuoso aria “Con ali di constanza”, she showed her vocal agility with a series of spectacular rapid and complex coloratura performances, but all done with a smile on her face, in which Ariodante’s joy could. to be heard in his voice. She is just as successful in expressing her anger and anxiety as in the air “Tu preparati amore e morire”, or the relief and optimism in the air “Dopo notte, atra e funesta”. The aria “Scherza, infida” was particularly distinguished by the pain it was able to breathe into the voice. Over a light orchestral accompaniment, she traced poignant lines of intense suffering, in which her legato, her phrasing and the attention she paid to the text stood out for their degree of precision.

Soprano Marie Lys performed no less effectively as Ariodante’s fiancée, Ginevra. It’s a part that demands a powerful emotional response from the singer as she oscillates between periods of intense joy, deep despair, and provocative anger, and that’s exactly what she delivered without ever compromising on beauty. vocal. In the air “Il mio rawl martoro”, Ginevra longs for death to escape her suffering. Lys gave a detailed performance in which she coated her voice with pain and longing, subtly bending colorful and emotional accents in the vocal line, in which she also showed off the beauty of her upper register. In a more joyful moment, she sang with strength and clarity, reveling in her love for Ariodante in the aria “Volate, amore”, her excellent phrasing, quick coloring and vibrant presentation communicating her feelings and delighting the audience. The tune “Orrida agl’occhi miei” finds Ginevra in a bad mood as she rejects Polinesso’s advances. In a spirited presentation, Lys once again indulged in quick coloratura presentations and rushed jumps, but this time with a provocative side.

There are three duets for the two lovers, in which their voices contrast and compliment each other beautifully. In “Prendi, prisi da questa mano,” Lys was bright and emotionally more powerful, while Fons was softer and more elegant, as they playfully engaged in pledging their love. The final duet “Bramo aver mille quickly” allowed them both to engage in agile vocal demonstrations in which they competed beautifully and supported each other, and which led to the closing chorus.

Soprano Rachel Redmond could have so easily been eclipsed as Dalinda, but in fact, she stuck it out with a quality performance. She possesses an attractive, versatile voice with good strength, which she has used skillfully to successfully develop her character. She presented her tunes in a lively and engaging manner, including “Neghittosi, ou voi che destin? was certainly the star, allowing Redmond to rampage against her betrayal by Polinesso, and she didn’t hold back. In an emotionally warm rendition, she triggered a fabulous, intricate coloratura display full of jumps and heavily accentuated vocal line, leaving no doubt about her feelings. Yet his tune “Il primo ardor” was so different. In a confession of love, her voice danced lightly and easily over the melodic line, filled with pleasant ornaments, light colorations and short trills, successfully capturing the joy of falling in love.

Male singers don’t quite hit the mark

The male singers produced inconsistent but reasonably good performances, with countertenor Clint van der Linde as Polinesso, the best of the group, though none were on par with the female singers. Of his four arias, “Douvres, giustizia, amor”, in which Polinesso comes forward to defend Ginevra’s honor, has been the most successful. Linde embraced the moment with an uplifting and energetic presentation in which her determination to win Ginevra as a means to the throne was clearly conveyed and showing considerable vocal agility with energetic coloratura. His opening aria “Coperta la frode” also received an expressive interpretation that captured Polinesso’s cynical nature and impressed with his appealing timbre and sure technique, while again allowing him to indulge in yet another coloratura display. entertaining. His other two arias were not as successful, both being presented a bit too rigid for some tastes. The recitatives were lively and cleverly crafted and brought out the vicious and duplicitous nature of his character.

Bass-baritone Njäl Sparbo played the role of the King of Scots. His tunes displayed a high degree of technical skill, while his recitatives were carefully crafted and delivered with meaning. His opening aria “Voli colla sua tromba” allowed him to show off his ability to beautify the vocal line, and his voice possessed the weight and authority to assert himself in the role of king. And his tune “invida sort avara” was delivered with a melancholy melody, which highlighted its pretty low register. The problem with his performance, however, was that he never seemed to convincingly engage with his character, he always seemed to sing his tunes without reference to a dramatic context. It was too casual, despite its successful presentation of recitatives.

Tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado has split as Lurcanio. He has a very pleasant lyrical voice, but always seemed to sing to himself and failed to explore the emotional depths and nuances of his character, who was only superficially defined. His aria “Del mio sol vezzosi rai” in which he reflects on his love for Dalinda has been rendered elegantly, but with emotional lightness, while his air “Tu vivi, e punito” in which he tries to prevent Ariodante from killing oneself was again performed beautifully, but the passion was too contained, nothing sparkled. In the end, too little attention was paid to dramatic development.

Her duet with Dalinda “Dite spera, e son contento” brought together two attractive voices, in which their sympathetic phrasing combined wonderfully for an elegant and attractive presentation.

Baritone Steffen Kruse played the small role of Odoardo and produced a solid performance.

Laurence Cummings signs in style

Laurence Cummings is ending her term as artistic director of the Göttingen International Handel Festival this season, after ten years in this position. He will no doubt be missed, especially for his performances as Music Director with the FestspielOrchester Göttingen. He was at the harpsichord for this “Ariodante” concert and elicited a superb performance from the orchestra, which captured the elegance and vitality of Handel’s score. There was a clarity and clarity in their playing that could not fail to please. He also maintained a good balance, at all levels, especially between the orchestra and the NDR Vokalensemble, which he has integrated well into the musical fabric.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening, in which the orchestra and the female soloists excelled, and while it seems that the male singers were missing, it is only by comparison that their contribution was positive.


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