A Superb Ariodante from the Incomparable William Christie and Les Arts Florissants

SpainSpain Handel, Ariodante (concert performance): Les Arts Florissants / William Christie (conductor), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 14.3.2018. (JMI)

Ariodante © A. Bofill
Ariodante © A. Bofill

Ariodante – Kate Lindsey
Ginevra – Chen Reiss
Polinesso – Christophe Dumaux
Dalinda – Hila Fahima
Lurcanio – Rainer Trost
King of Scotland – Wilhelm Schwinghammer
Odoardo – Anthony Gregory

William Christie and Les Arts Florissants are making three stops in Spain as part of a European tour. In addition to this concert at the Liceu, they are visiting Pamplona and the Teatro Real in Madrid. These concerts were preceded by staged performances at the Staatsoper in Vienna, and then a concert version at the Paris Philharmonie.

There can be little doubt that Baroque opera is fashionable nowadays, and that a Baroque opera performance can be a real delight, especially if the musical direction is successful. I think that we’ve never seen such an abundance of great conductors in this field, many of them with their own orchestras specializing in the repertoire. With William Christie and Les Art Florissants, one is assured of being in excellent hands. And so it was on this occasion, with a superb musical version and a strong vocal cast, especially with regard to the three main characters.

That William Christie is one of the great Baroque conductors is evident, and it is reconfirmed every time he is on the podium. He led a magnificent performance, with exceptional authority and care for musicians and singers of Les Art Florissants, one of the best Baroque orchestras nowadays. His version had several cuts, most notably the ballet music.

The vocal distribution was remarkable, and all the singers moved easily about the stage. Except for the protagonist, all had been part of the performances at the Vienna Staatsoper; none of the seven soloists used a score,

Ariodante was interpreted by mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey; she took the place of Sarah Connolly, who played Ariodante in the staged version. Kate Lindsey has clearly been the triumph of the concert. Her voice is attractive, shining in agilities, and she sings with great expressiveness, as she showed in the always-awaited ‘Scherza infida’. Her only problem is that her voice is somewhat short at the bottom of the range.

Soprano Chen Reiss was a convincing Ginevra, singing with gusto and emotion throughout the opera. Her voice is beautiful and well handled, and she was at her best in the great scene that closes the second act of the opera.

I would also highlight the performance of countertenor Christophe Dumaux as the evil Polinesso. His voice is more beautiful than those of many of his colleagues in this category, and he has no problem singing agilities.

Dalinda was played by soprano Hila Fahima, who was less compelling than her colleagues. Her voice is too light for the character.

Tenor Rainer Trost in the role of Lurcanio, the brother of Ariodante, was quite good, but bass Wilhelm Schwinghammer as the King of Scotland, father of Ginevra, was less convincing. Tenor Anthony Gregory as Odoardo, advisor to the King, did well in his part and nicely completed the cast.

Jose M. Irurzun

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