Semele - Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset - Barbican, 8 July 2010
Semele is a long piece uncut; a delayed start and extended intervals made it seem even more so. But crack harpsichordist Christophe Rousset's bouncy reading kept things moving along nicely, and the four hours passed without the expected yawns. We got a 'semi-staged' version (for which read face-pulling and no scores) clearly honed from a brief, staged run in Paris the previous week.
Twinkling nearly as much as her weighty diamond parure, the Babs Windsor of baroque opera Danielle de Niese was the nominal star. True to form, her p0rny pouting and braless jiggling were more memorable than her short-breathed, scratchy soprano. Some laboured posturing with a mirror in Myself I shall adore threatened to turn a walk-on, walk-off concert performance into grotesque caricature. Perhaps it was meant to be ironic. But true glamour is in short supply in the world of opera, and she has it in spades, so most of the audience lapped it up anyway.
The serious, top-drawer Handel performances came from the rest of the cast, which included Jaël Azzaretti, Richard Croft, Peter Rose, Claire Debono and, most impressively, Vivica Genaux as the disappointed Ino and the vengeful Juno. She may look like a goldfish at feeding time in the faster passages, but those unconventionally rapid jaw movements sculpt her coloratura with extraordinary precision. There was the odd whiff of a French accent from the Théâtre des Champs Élysées choir, but the clarity of their English diction would put most native speakers to shame.
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