Baroque Virtuosity

Handel – Rinaldo

Rinaldo – Franco Fagioli
Armida – Karina Gauvin
Goffredo – Varduhi Abrahamyan
Almirena – Emőke Baráth
Eustazio – Xavier Sabata
Argante – Gianluca Buratto

Il pomo d’oro / Riccardo Minasi.
Concert performance

Theater an der Wien, Vienna. Saturday, December 14th, 2013.

Sometimes, sets and costumes are unnecessary and in this concert performance of Rinaldo the singing carried all before it. It was phenomenally cast with some of the very finest singers of today. If last night’s Tristan marked the summit of what a certain type of human voice can achieve then tonight’s Rinaldo represented a technical Everest for baroque artists and this cast excelled themselves in feats of technical brilliance.

As those who dip into this blog occasionally might guess, the main attraction for me tonight was Karina and she did not disappoint as Armida. She was outstanding, the voice free and easy, coloratura expertly dispatched and that liquid golden tone flowed effortlessly. She’s down to sing the role in Glyndebourne next year and it’s definitely worth seeing. Emőke Baráth had an announcement made for her Almirena but it was not necessary. The voice is somewhat redolent of Emma Kirby in its purity yet it also has a richness that is very attractive. Her legato in ‘lascia ch’io piango’ was beautifully done. I would have perhaps liked a bit more ornamentation in her arias but she sang superbly. Varduhi Abrahamyan’s Goffredo was also wonderfully done. Coloratura easy and a beautifully full tone matched the music to perfection.

Franco Fagioli in the title role offered singing that was simply staggering in its virtuosity. Unlike some of his cast mates, he offered some quite stunning ornamentation showing off all of his incredible range. It was quite simply amazing. Xavier Sabata was the real discovery for me of the night. He has this beautifully oaky counter tenor, a wonderfully warm and full tone with sheer ease of production and an effortlessly easy line. He is certainly a singer to watch and one I very much look forward to seeing again, very soon. Gianluca Burrato’s Argante was also beautifully sung in a bass that seemed effortlessly produced that seemed as deep as the Atlantic. Very impressive.

Riccardo Minasi directed Il pomo d’oro from the violin. They played well but there were some intonation issues in the strings here and there. For me I would have preferred more of a sense of improvisation in the playing – for example imitating the singers when they ornamented a line, but I imagine limited rehearsal time played a part in that. There was certainly a beautiful sound to the band.

This was an evening of spectacular singing at the very highest level by artists at the very top of their game. It introduced me to an outstanding new talent and also renewed my acquaintance with some outstanding voices. Unforgettable.


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