Spain Handel: Alcina, The English Concert, Harry Bicket (conductor), El Baluarte, Pamplona, and Auditorio Nacional, Madrid, 12 & 14.10.2014 (JMI)
Alcina: Joyce DiDonato
Ruggiero: Alice Coote
Morgana: Anna Christy
Bradamante: Christine Rice
Oberto: Anna Devin
Oronte: Ben Johnson
Melisso: Wojtek Gierlach
One of the most attractive events at the start of the opera season has been this Alcina with Joyce DiDonato. The concert tour began on 10 October at London’s Barbican, followed by Pamplona and Madrid,continuing in Vienna and Paris, and ending up at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
This is a fairly complete version of Handel’s opera, and The English Concert gave an excellent performance. A magnificent orchestra! To me, its director, Harry Bicket, has always seemed a sensitive musician, although short on imagination in his conducting. This impression was reinforced during the first act, but in the second half his delicacy and sensitivity were excellent and produced a convincing reading.
Alcina was performed by Joyce DiDonato. There are singers noted for their vocal quality and others for their refined technique, but few of them fall into the category of genuine artists who are able to convey emotion through their singing. Ms. DiDonato combines it all. She has a very attractive voice, impeccable technique, an impressive ease in agilities and, finally, a capacity to move available only to the very best singers. Her entire performance was outstanding, but if I had to single out just one moment, I would choose the aria “Si, son quella” in Act I. Outstanding as she was in Pamplona, she was even better in Madrid, where the aria “Ah, mio cor, Schernito sei” bordered on true perfection. A GREAT ARTIST, in capital letters.
The character of Ruggiero has special significance, apart from having two of the best known and brightest moments of the opera: “Verdi prati” and “Sta nell’ircana.” These quite different arias allow one to fully assess the quality of their interpreter. Alice Coote did very well in both cases but was better in Pamplona than in Madrid, where she did not seem to be at her best.
Soprano Anna Christy was an able interpreter of Morgana, especially in the aria that ends the first act, “Tornami a Vagheggiar.” Christine Rice is not a contralto, but she did well in the part of Bradamante, singing with musicality and an attractive voice. She was particularly good in “Vorrei vendicarmi.“
The fifth female in the cast was the young Irish soprano Anna Devin as Oberto. Her voice is quite attractive, without problems in coloratura, and she almost stole the show with “Barbara, io ben lo so.” She has a bright future.
The male voices were at a lower level, especially Ben Johnson as Oronte. Wojtek Gierlach as Melisso was better although not particularly convincing.
José Mª Irurzun