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Real Drama

'Poro' at the London Handel Festival,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL


Handel's cast for the world première of Poro, Re dell'Indie must have been one of the most unbalanced that he had to deal with, one soprano (Anna Strada del Po, who went on to create Alcina), three altos (castrato Senesino and two contraltos), a bass who was so limited that Handel granted him no arias and one of the finest tenors to sing for Handel (Fabri).

Handel set three librettos by Metatstasio and in each he reduced the amount of recitative. But in Poro, the lack of an adequate bass meant that Metastasio's complex plot was reduced to one of schematic clumsiness.

In terms of character development, Metastasio librettos are rarely convincing, he tended to move his characters about like puppets in order to provide some dramatic situations. In Poro he does this in spades, giving the composer battle scenes, suttee and conquerors forgiving the conquered.

The opera received a rare revival at the London Handel Festival (seen Tuesday 20 March 2007) at the Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London UK. Amazingly, the works last staging in the UK was in 1975.

In a nut shell the plot concerns Alexander the Great -- Alessandro (Nathan Vale, tenor). Having conquered Poro (Christopher Ainslie, counter-tenor) and his forces, Alessandro falls in love with Cleofide (soprano, Ruby Hughes) who loves Poro. Cleofide, though, trades on Alessandro's love to try and gain better terms; this makes Poro insanely jealous.

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Copyright © 25 March 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK


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