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Stephen Wallace sang Athmas, Semele's intended fiancé. Athmas is definitely a dull stick and his role is really only as a foil to Semele (who doesn't love him) and Ino (who does). I have heard Wallace sing impressively in Handel in the past, but here the role did not seem to bring out the best in him. Perhaps the part did not lie in the best part of his rather soft grained voice, or perhaps the undramatic nature of the role did not engage his imagination. This is a pity because, at his best, Wallace is a fine artist. Though Curnyn observed many of the usual cuts in the piece, he allowed Athmas slightly more arias than usual.

Gail Pearson was amusing as the put-upon Iris and more than held her own vocally, providing fine support.

The sixteen-strong chorus was placed behind the orchestra -- perhaps not the best thing. But whatever the cause, the chorus was not at its best -- I have heard far stronger singing from them. There were moments of untidiness and the odd wobbly entry, but more than that, the group's imagination did not seem to be fully engaged. The singers seemed to be on auto-pilot in too many passages.

The same could not be said of the orchestra, which produced a wonderfully crisp, lively sound and accompanied the singers sympathetically. Curnyn controlled the whole performance admirably with a sure sense of tempo and structure.

The single interval was after Act 2, which might not have been ideal, but with singing as entrancing as this, time just seemed to fly by. I look forward to the recording.

Copyright © 9 July 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK



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