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As Didymus, Theodora's Roman lover, Stephen Wallace was repeating a role he has sung with Glyndebourne on tour. Wallace has a soft grained, expressive voice. There were some truly lovely moments in his singing. The role was originally written for Guadagni, who went on to create Gluck's Orfeo and again expressiveness was more important than virtuosity.

Moving though Wallace was, I found his performance too soft-grained. I would have liked a little more steel in his voice; more sense of line.

Paul Agnew impressed as Didymus's friend Septimus, a role that is not really dramatically necessary but calls on the singer to be repeatedly sympathetic to others, something Agnew conjured up very well. Agnew was the only singer who exercised a Handelian restraint in the ornamentation of the da capo repeats. His ornaments were a model of what should be done whereas the other singers veered towards the over elaborate or even recomposed the vocal lines.

As the Roman commander, Matthew Rose displayed a sense of power combined with a neat command of the dramatic passagework that the role requires. In this, Rose managed something more subtle than the usual bluster often found in this role.

Handel wrote just three duets for the work, but these play an important part in the musical drama. Wallace and McGreevy were particularly affecting in their first duet and found a profoundly moving simplicity in their final duet.

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Copyright © 19 October 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


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