Wednesday, June 8, 2011

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (4) Ariodantissimo

Ariodante (in concert), Théâtre des Champs Elysées, May 23 2011

Alan Curtis ..... Conductor

Joyce DiDonato ..... Ariodante
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ..... Polinesso
Karina Gauvin ..... Ginevra
Sabina Puertolas ..... Dalinda
Nicholas Phan ..... Lurcanio
Matthew Brook ..... Le Roi
Paolo Borgonovo ..... Odoardo

Il Complesso Barocco

This was one of those memorable concerts where everything seemed to work marvelously well, in spite of the orchestra not being as alert as the singers. If the singers were less inspired then this would have been one of those baroque snoozers that we unfortunately exposed to more often than not.

First of all our fave Joyce DiDonato was at her best and it seems whenever she performs in Paris there was this extra little thing that happens in her performance making it special. Her first aria was actually excellent but you could tell she could do even better.   And that's what happened: every next part she would sing seemed to be better than the previous one, crowned with a heart-wrenching  Scherza infida,
and a sublime Dopo Notte. Joyce shines the joy to sing, to perform, and share it with public -- she never leaves us with impression that she performed routinely, and looks like she really believes that her singing will bring some beauty in the lives of people...  Great great Ariodante, who sounds even better live than on the recently released recording!
Ariodante - Joyce DiDonato

What was great about this concert was that --while it did make Joyce excel in baroque-- it was not all about DiDonato. Karina Gauvin  whose few recording I listened to, but never listened to her in live performance, blew me away with her magnificent voice that sounds audible in all registers, healthy and beautiful. She must be the Ginevra of our time. Also her singing got progressively more spectacular as the evening went on. (A side remark: Isn't it great to see so many excellent singers coming from Canada these days?!)

Matthew Brooke (King) and Karina Gauvin (Ginevra)

Again a Canadian, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, was her-usual-self. She sounded a bit low key at the beginning but as the evening gained a momentum in quality she seemed to accept the challenge and sang a few brilliant arias, especially with the one towards the end where she exhibited a whole palette of her unbeatable gravi's. 

Sabina Puertolas (Dalinda), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Polineso), and Nicholas Phan (Lurcanio)

In fact the evening started to gain in quality when the first tenor aria arrived. I obviously had no idea who Nicholas Phan was, nor I ever listened to him before. And there comes a guy with not so big a voice, but who create art: he sang it not only beautifully, but also with a rare sense for finesse, throwing in the piani when necessary, but also pushing to the top of his voice in full force when needed. To me this was just impeccable: not a singer who tries to emulate "great singers from the past", but creates his own imprint into the role. Bravissimo and I truly hope we'll get to see more of him! (He should be good in Mozart too?!)

Nicholas Phan

Finally,the voice of Sabina Puertolas is also special: it is a paragon of crystal purity, which is particularly suitable for those 'innocent' characters. Her performance only made the spectrum of beautiful voices complete. Brava!

With all the singers this good the evening that would normally stretch to forever seemed to last short and with huge rounds of cheers from the crowd the performers were almost obliged to give us an encore: repeating the song concluding the opera. Big thanks to all of them for a memorable evening, and to maestro Alan Curtis who assembled such a wonderful cast.

Brook, DiDonato and Gauvin (and maestro Curtis)

I like this pic (and I think these 4 girls will like it too -- if they get to see it, that is)!

Here is Scherza infida sung by Joyce (she sounds even better in auditorium)


  1. Thanks for good review.
    A few comments on the visual side: Both Ms DiDonato and Ms Lemieux sing male characters, so why are they not both dressed male - or both in dresses? It seems stupid to have Ms DiDonato in male outfit and Ms Lemieux in female.
    And while I have no problem with opera singers being a bit on the heavy side, why is Ms Gauvin wearing a dress that might look good on a slim woman but looks horrible on her? The shape and what is it wiht sleeveless dresses, making her arms look like two big hams? In a suitable dress, she would have looked fine.
    Ms Lemieux, at least her dress is dark - but sleeveless???

  2. Agree totally about the singers who were all wonderful. Shame they were all let down badly by Il Complesso Barocco though - one of the most turgid, soul-less rendering of Handel's music that I've ever heard. Splurged on the 'Ariodante' CD set before the concert - haven't yet been able to bring myself to play it for fear of hearing Il Complesso Barocco wading through treacle again.