GIVING VOICE TO A TALE OF PURSUIT AND DESIRE

The New York Times
February 26, 2013 Tuesday
Late Edition - Final

By JAMES R. OESTREICH

The remarkable resurgence of Handel operas in the last quarter-century
owes at least as much to their abundant opportunities for vocal
display as to their overall musical quality, which can be spotty,
or their dramatic persuasiveness, which is often feeble. So Carnegie
Hall was well filled with voice aficionados on Sunday afternoon
for a concert performance of Handel's "Radamisto," with the fine
period-instrument band English Concert deftly conducted from the
harpsichord by Harry Bicket.

And they got what they came for. The nominal attraction was the
countertenor David Daniels in the title role, but the casting was
strong across the board.

The plot spins out the would-be fatal pursuit of Radamisto, son of
Farasmane, the king of Thrace, by the invading troops of Tiridate,
the dastardly king of Armenia, about as far as it can be spun. However
much bent on sheer conquest, Tiridate also lusts after Radamisto's
wife, Zenobia, spurning his own, Polissena, Radamisto's sister. At
the final bell, in the last of 32 scenes, the other characters, led
by Tiridate's ally, Tigrane, convince Tiridate of the evil of his ways.

He suddenly relents ("What virtue I offended!"), and all's well.

Fortunately, there are enough great arias (along with a few duets and
ensembles) to carry the day, if well performed. Most were magnificently
rendered here.

The bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni nearly stole the show, as his
characterizations so often do, with his bullying, blustery Tidirate
(though Mr. Daniels momentarily upstaged him in return, standing to
acknowledge and extend applause for his performance of Radamisto's
great aria "Ombra cara," just as Mr. Pisaroni was attempting a
stage entrance). Mr. Pisaroni made the most of his bravura moments
and commanded the stage with his physical presence as well as with
his voice.

The other main characters all had lyrical showcases in addition to
vocal fireworks, and that is where Mr. Daniels really shone. His
fioritura sometimes sounded approximate, partly, perhaps, because it
did not always project well. His more subdued and reflective arias,
on the other hand, especially that "Ombra cara," were nothing but
gorgeous.

The women were all excellent: the soprano Joelle Harvey, assured if
not imposing in the trouser role of Tigrane; another soprano, Brenda
Rae, sturdy yet suitably vulnerable as Polissena; and the mezzo-soprano
Patricia Bardon, utterly melting as Zenobia. David Kravitz, a baritone,
was more than adequate to the smaller role of Farasmane.

This was the first in a series of Handel operas and oratorios to be
presented in concert by Carnegie Hall, with Mr. Bicket and the English
Concert. "Theodora," another musical gem, was recently announced for
next February.

URL:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/arts/music/handels-radamisto-at-carnegie-hall.html