Tag: Handel

Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (3)

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There is only one little puzzle that I have yet to work out about this production. The orb. It first appears as a bowling-ball sized golden ball that Partenope’s servant Ormonte hands to Rosmira when she is having misgivings about what she is doing at the end of Act I. (I should say, when at the end of Act I she is having misgivings about what she is doing. The scene does not rise to that level of meta-criticism.) He hands it to her as if she’s supposed to know what to do with it, or as if she ought to expect it. Rosmira takes it, and then gives it back.

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Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (2)

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Two things stood out to me about this performance. First of all, the production strikes what I would call an excellent balance between visuals and music – it’s interesting, but it’s never distracting (well, except for when two of the walls start closing in on Partenope in Act I as her servant Ormonte suggests that Emilio’s visit may not be about war alone; the sudden inward movement of the walls and Partenope’s startled look reminded me of nothing so much as the first Star Wars movie when they get stuck in the Death Star’s trash compactor. But this is one of those things that is more of an Earworm problem than a Danish National Opera problem.)

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Handel – Partenope / Royal Danish Opera 2008 (1)

partenopeHandel’s Partenope is not, as one might mistakenly guess from the DVD cover, about the various unpleasant things that can happen when you wear armor without a lining. Rather, it’s about Queen Partenope of Partenope, which later became known as Naples. (It sounds strange, but you could do that kind of thing back then. “This is my city! I am named Gretchen. The city shall be called . . . Gretchen. Until such time as we see fit to rename it something else, like Heidelberg or whatever.”)

Partenope (Inger Dam-Jensen) is a very attractive prospect, what with having her own city and all, and she has several suitors: Arsace (Andreas Scholl), Armindo (Christophe Dumaux) and Emilio (Bo Kristian Jensen). She starts out by loving Arsace, but there is a bit of a problem with this, because Arsace is in a Ruggiero-type situation, but without the excuse of having been literally enchanted. His girlfriend Rosmira (Tuva Semmingsen) soon arrives in hot pursuit, disguised as a young man, Eurimine, complete with the inevitable mustache. (Though I have to say, the mustache technicians at the Danish Opera know their trade. They managed to find one that really suits Semmingsen.)

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Handel – Tamerlano / Handel-Festspiele Halle, 2001 (1)

Handel’s Tamerlano is not as well known as some of his other operas. The title character, Tamerlano, is Emperor of the Tartars. He has defeated and taken prisoner the Turkish sultan Bajazet, who has a daughter named Asteria. Asteria is in love with a Greek prince, Andronico, who is in Turkey for reasons I was unable to determine.

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Handel – Hercules / Opéra National de Paris 2004 (3)

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And then there’s all the sand and the fruit. The action in this production takes place in a large, dark, cell-like concrete space. Sometimes there is a set of big square steps to the left; at times, during Dejanira’s “Cease, ruler of the day, to rise” aria at the end of Act II and when Hercules is dying, we see sunlight through an opening. Otherwise, things are dark.

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Handel – Hercules / Opéra National de Paris 2004 (2)

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The key item in this production is probably the black marble statue of Hercules that we see in pieces throughout, and then whole at the end. It’s one of the first things to appear on the stage. In Act I, as Lichas (Malena Ernman, who has a lovely big solid voice) explains what is going on, she lifts up the billowy dark front curtain to reveal the despondent Dejanira (DiDonato), who is curled up on a few pillows on the floor with a row of pieces of fruit by her feet and her head and arms resting on the head of the statue.

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Handel – Hercules / Opéra National de Paris 2004 (1)

JDDHerculesThis musical drama is a little bit like Handel’s Semele. It’s in English, it’s based on a story from classical mythology, and the chorus sees a little more action than it does in many of Handel’s Italian operas. Apparently it was a gigantic flop the first time it was performed. Too bad they didn’t have Joyce DiDonato around back in the 1740s. (Though I give you, that would have been a little confusing. “The mezzo is from where?”)

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Headbanging Handel

virtuoso handelI started listening to this recording last night while cooking dinner, and I ended listening to it about three times total. I’ve had it for ages, but I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. It’s harpsichordist Igor Kipnis playing Handel. I’m a fan of Kipnis – I enjoy his harpsichord versions of Bach’s keyboard partitas (available super-cheap, if memory serves) and I also have a recording of him playing some of Scarlatti’s little harpsichord sonatas that I like a lot.

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Handel – Semele / Zurich Opera 2007 (3)

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One of the things I noticed about this opera was how much I liked the overture – there are these wonderful tight little figures in the violins that appear several times in the first section. And the overture was not the only point at which I found myself paying attention to the violins. They follow Semele (Cecilia Bartoli) around quite a bit. In Semele’s Act II aria “with fond desiring” the vocal line and the violin line are nearly the same. Even more fun still is “Myself I shall adore” from Act III. Disguised as Ino, Juno has given Semele an enchanted mirror in which Semele appears with the beauty of a goddess rather than a mortal woman.

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Handel – Semele / Zurich Opera 2007 (2)

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Jupiter and Juno are King and Queen of England here. I think the idea is not anything to do with England in any specific sense, but rather the evocation of a royal pair who have a great deal of money and power but who are also profoundly ordinary and often rather petty and limited at the same time. It’s a clever communication of that “human, flawed and often ridiculous, but with magic powers!” quality of the Greek and Roman gods.

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Eagle palace snatch-drama crisis! (Also known as Handel’s Semele, Zurich Opera 2007)

The “Eagle palace snatch-drama crisis” line comes from the headline of the mock-up of The Times that Cadmus King of Thebes Important English Guy is handed when the news goes public that his daughter Semele has been snatched away from the palace by Jupiter, in the form of an eagle. And one cannot blame The Times for the size of the typeface on that headline, either. How often do eagle snatch crises happen anymore, after all? Indeed, unless we are eagle gynecologists, how many of us, truly, can ever realistically hope to witness anything remotely resembling an eagle snatch crisis?

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Handel – Rodelinda / Metropolitan Opera 2011 (1)

Rodelinda battles it out in my head with Giulio Cesare and Alcina as my favorite Handel opera. I’ve seen two other versions of it on DVD, and heard two more on CD, and watching this performance from the Met made me realize that one of the other versions I’ve seen is actually even more interesting, in retrospect, than I thought it was at the time. But that’s not important right now.

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Patricia Petibon – Nouveau Monde

And now for something slightly different. It’s Patricia Petibon singing a collection of French, Spanish and English baroque arias and songs. The title of the recording is “new world,” and so it makes sense that we’ve got the English, the French and the Spanish, and via the two excerpts from Les Indes galantes, I guess at least baroque representations of Native Americans. (But if were talking about the colonial world, what about the Dutch? I ask you, what about the Dutch? Then again, I’m not sure that “Patricia Petibon sings the Dutch baroque” is necessarily a winning concept, as far as marketing goes. This not intended as a criticism of Petibon. I would be skeptical even of, say, Dorothea Röschmann and Vesselina Kasarova singing the Dutch baroque, together, in matching dresses, with a halftime performance by Joyce DiDonato. I mean, I’d buy that in in a second – wouldn’t you? – but that is not really an argument for the soundness of the idea.)

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Handel – Orlando / Zurich Opera 2007 (3)

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Orlando here is Marijana Mijanovic, who takes a little while to warm up, but once she’s on, she is on. Orlando’s long tormented recitatives/ariosos at the end of Act II and towards the end of Act III are wonderful – and those low notes sound fantastic! This performance in general seems to hit its stride toward the end of Act II.

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Handel – Orlando / Zurich Opera 2007 (2)

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This is where the undercutting of Zoroastro as the voice of reason comes in. As noted, this guy looks a little sinister. And not only does he look sinister, but he’s got help. Zoroastro is the head doctor and Dorinda is a nurse; there are several other doctors and nurses, silent parts, who follow him around and attend to his every word, often jotting down notes. Orlando appears to be some kind of ‘interesting case’ or experiment as far as Zoroastro is concerned. He’s always lurking, often with notepad in hand. In Act I, when Angelica is provoking Orlando’s jealousy to buy herself and Medoro some time, it seems that Zoroastro has set up the encounter on purpose and is stage-managing it as it unfolds. He even chloroforms and drags away the unfortunate Medoro, who is about to burst in and interrupt at the wrong moment.

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