Opera concert: Handel's Ariodante

To appreciate Handel's opera Ariodante, presented in concert form at the Barbican this week, I think you need to get into a baroque frame of mind. The trick is to appreciate the prettiness of it without falling asleep like the little woman next to me did. It was not too hard to get into this frame when an impressive cast headed by Joyce DiDonato and Il Complesso Barocco.

As the first half of the performance closed with the incredibly dramatic "Scherza infida" sung by DiDonato for someone not familiar with the work it was easy to wonder how that could be topped in the second half. It was sublime music with an eerie bassoon accompaniment. But by her final aria, Doppo Notte, there was more breathless breathtaking music making that the audience could not help but cheer and applaud, even if the epilogue was still to run.

AriodanteThere was some very fine music making here, which helps bring to life this piece. Even for a concert version, it was fairly dramatic. Costumes and scenery were not necessary when the singers could act (and push music stands about). Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Polinesso, the rival to DiDonato's Ariodante was particulary good in getting so much out of the villain's role, both in voice and performance. It was tempting to hiss, but only in a good natured way, and she had many fans by the end of the evening.

The last time I saw DiDonato she "famously broke her leg on stage". It is not often you get to witness modern opera folklore, but one suspects as DiDonato goes from strength to strength this will be one of those stories to dine out on for years to come... Her new album Diva, Divo was released earlier this year, but a full recording with Il Complesso Barocco is also available from June... Not even indigestion from eating a chicken breast smeared with salsa and stuffed in a worn out focaccia from the Barbican's canteen could put me off enjoying the evening. The six-thirty start necessitated eating there (amongst the flying pigeons) out of desperation. Live and learn...

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