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Handel, La Resurrezione: Soloists,Le Concert D’Astrée. Conductor: Emmanuelle Haïm, Auditorio El Baluarte de Pamplona. 6.4.2009 (JMI)

Concert Version.


Angel: Camilla Tilling.
Mary Magdalene: Marie Arnet.
Mary Cleofas: Sonia Prina.
Saint John the Evangelist: Toby Spence.
Lucifer: Luca Pisaroni.

It has become more and more common for major baroque orchestras to give European tours which present unknown operas in concert form. In general, these tours are of a high musical level and are a great way to discover forgotten operas.

On this occasion, the orchestra Le Concert D'Astrée with its director Emmanuelle Haïm have  gone on tour with an opera/oratorio by Handel, which has only previously been available as a recording. La Resurrezione is an opera (or oratorio) belonging to Handel’s Roman period, having been premiered there on Easter Sunday 1708 in a private performance.

At that time the Popes had forbidden stage presentations, and the Oratorios were the logical answer to this prohibition. However, La Resurrezione was premiered in a fully staged version at the Palace of Prince Ruspoli, with a soprano singing the role of Mary Magdalene, instead of a castrato, despite the papal ban on women appearing on stage :  for this reason Handel was severely admonished by the Pope.

The action takes place between Good Friday and Easter Sunday and follows the Gospel faithfully, except for the added role of Lucifer. This is a work in which Handel is at his most inspired, and has several wonderful arias.

Emmanuelle Haïm belongs to the small group of great baroque conductors. Still fresh in my memory is her performance of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie at Toulouse Capitole, when she gave an outstanding performance of this Italian baroque opera.Her reading of La Resurrezione was very good, although perhaps not  quite reaching the excellent standard of some of her colleagues, particularly Mr Minkowski. Having said this though, very few could attain her level. Le Concert D'Astrée is one of the best baroque orchestras and offered a fine sound throughout the concert.

The vocal casting gave us five singers of great talent, although there were some changes of cast after the first performances in London and Paris.

The Angel was interpreted by Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling, who has a beautiful voice, is outstandingly musical and has excellent coloratura. Her volume is not huge, but in this type of opera,  that is of no great importance. Another Swede, Marie Arnet, sang the role of Mary Magdalene, replacing Kate Royal. Although Ms Arnet was a decent interpreter, she was perhaps not as brilliant in performance as Ms Royal. Sonia Prina was an outstanding Mary Cleofas, singing the bravura aria that Handel gives her in the first part of the opera no less than brilliantly.

Of the men, British tenor Toby Spence was a good Saint John the Evangelist, though slightly short on brilliance of tone. Luca Pisaroni replaced  Lorenzo Regazzo as Lucifer and his performance was magnificent, so good that in fact, that it would be very difficult for any other singer to equal him.

The public gave a very warm reception to all the singers, in addition to Ms Haïm and the orchestra. The comments that I could hear were all very positive and the concert was a clear success for El Baluarte.

José M Irurzun

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