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I will not attempt to summarise Radamisto's plot. In its basics it is simplicity itself, the testing of marital love and the conflict between love of one's family and duty to one's husband. But in order to create a series of dramatic situations, Handel and his librettist apply a number to twists and turns to the plot. The result is tricky to summarise on paper, but easy to apprehend in performance. In fact, the inadequate Royal Festival Hall programme failed to summarise the plot adequately and presented opera goers with a plot that was compressed to the point of unintelligibility.

Mijanovic's Radamisto and Nikiteanu's Zenobia are a devoted married couple whose devotion is tested almost to breaking point through the opera. Both have lovely, warm mezzo voices and Mijanovic captured Radamisto's haunted intensity from the start. Striking and glamorous in a white suit, black shirt, black hair and deep eyes, she was the recipient of some music of stunning quality and gave us a performance of heartbreaking intensity. At its core was the lovely aria 'Ombra Cara', sung to Radamisto's wife's spirit when Radamisto thinks that Zenobia is dead. As Zenobia, Nikiteanu sang with dark intensity, giving hints of eastern European timbre. She does not have a conventional baroque voice. But her way with the music was affecting and stylish, even if there were times when I would have liked a greater sense of line. She brought a sense of quiet intensity to Zenobia's sufferings. Just before she tried to commit suicide, she sang a movingly mournful prayer with a solo oboe, full of hints of such future arias as Serse's 'Ombra mai fu'. As if two emphasise their mutual bond Handel gave Radamisto and Zenobia two duets and it was here that the vocal casting paid off as the two lovely voices intertwined almost imperceptibly.

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Copyright © 28 March 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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