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All this was made more frustrating by the fact that the performances from the singers were at such a high level. Lewis was perhaps the weakest, hampered by her Vicky Pollard persona, but though her singing was careful, it was creditable. Tyler Clarke, as her lover, had a warm passionate tenor voice though his passagework was sometimes inclined to be untidy. But he always conveyed passion through the music and had an immediately appealing stage presence.

Pierard as Meleagro was simply superb. Her stage presence was androgynously masculine and suitably gauche. Handel gives the character lots (and lots) of notes to sing and Pierard coped brilliantly. Not only did she sing the notes but she used Handel's complex vocal lines to convey real emotion. Pierard is a truly fine Handelian singer and I long to hear her in other roles. Meleagro, written for a soprano castrato, seemed to sit at the top of her comfortable range, but she coped beautifully.

Ruby Hughes made a fine foil as Atalanta. When required to, Hughes herself had a mean way with Handel's passagework, but she also proved intensely moving in Atalanta's slower numbers. I am not convinced that Atalanta should have been attempting to commit suicide in Act 2, but such was the intensity for Hughes' musical and dramatic performance that she was entirely believable.

The two came together most memorably in a pair of moving duets; the final one, played before the curtain, is full of melting moments and passing dissonance as Handel makes the two vocal lines move around each other.

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Copyright © 26 April 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK

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