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<<  -- 4 --  Robert Hugill    GRIPPING THEATRE

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As their enemy, Tiridate, bass Reinhard Mayr gave us a vivid young tyrant, but Mayr's stage behaviour verged on over-acting. Mayr's attractive lyric voice was not always completely comfortable in the baroque idiom, but his performance was stirring and credible even if he did not always manage to bring the intensity of his physical acting into his voice. Tiridate is obsessed with Radamisto's wife Zenobia and pursues her throughout most of the opera. Tiridate's wife, Polinessa (played by soprano Malin Hartelius) is thus torn between her husband, Tiridate, and her brother, Radamisto. Polinessa has some lovely music, but must spend most of the opera being torn by her duties, so there is a danger that we might find her less than compelling. There was no danger of this with Hartelius's glorious singing as she gave us a series of intensely moving arias. She was plangently moving in her slower music, but in her faster passagework she gave the music a wonderful shape and direction.

Tiridate is supported in his endeavours by his brother, Fraarte (soprano Elizabeth Rae Magnuson) and his general Tigrane (soprano Isabel Rey). To complicate matters Fraarte is also in love with Zenobia and Tigrane is in love with Tiridate's wife, Polinessa. Both characters get a generous portion of arias from Handel. Magnuson had a strong sense of how to put over a baroque aria but sounded a little over cautious in her passagework. If this could be freer then she would be a fine artist. As Tigrane, Rey had a bright, attractive voice and proved very effective without being too showy. All her strong performance needed was a greater sense of bravura.

Zurich Opera had assembled a fine, multi-national cast (Swedish, American, German, Austrian, Serbian, Spanish and Romanian) who gave a strong, committed performance under William Christie's deft leadership. They made a fine case for this tricky opera and we came away heartened to have heard such stylish, Handelian singing and commitment to opera seria.

Copyright © 28 March 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK

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ZURICH OPERA

WILLIAM CHRISTIE

THE ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL

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