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Burggraaf's voice lacks some of the character of Crowe's, even (perhaps especially) in the flowering coloratura (echoes of La finta giardiniera, and perhaps a foretaste of Idomeneo), and even acquiring a disconcerting blandness in the Garsington outdoor acoustic: 'Tranquil air and peaceful days' set nobody alight; certainly not compared with Agenore's wonderfully sung aria and recitative which followed, or the bustling coloratura of Tamiri's first utterance -- low in the soprano range and almost more mezzo-like, and certainly Natasha Jouhl's most polished and attractive offering. Where Burggraaf sounded best was in duet: the Elisa-Aminta joint scenes worked beautifully, and the two's contrasting colours lent an added poignancy to their exchanges.

Natasha Jouhl as Tamiri. Photo © 2007 Johan Persson
Natasha Jouhl as Tamiri. Photo © 2007 Johan Persson

As Act II got underway, Lucy Crowe's wonderful musicianship became all the more evident, starting with her gorgeously articulated exchange with Walker's almost as finessed Agenor. It is the tragedy of this senior royal servant that he must effect Alexander's imperial plans and, by the selfsame act, end up dumping, on instruction, his own beloved: 'Only a lover who suffers as I do,' he sings, and we indeed suffer with him.

Crowe went one further. She has a definite 'wow' factor: several times, the voice with its passionate edginess sent a thrill down the spine, that arresting shiver that betokens something musically out of the usual. Her scene with Agenor is all the more touching for her mistaken, if soon dispelled, belief that he is Alexander himself. Elisa is not low-born; being of the house of Cadmus (whose own father, incidentally, was an Agenor), she is herself of Phoenician royal stock. Her really beautifully designed costume(s), part peasant, part almost courtly, captured the dichotomy. She too is the noble shepherd, and she vociferously proves it.

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Copyright © 15 July 2007 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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