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Locatelli, Haendel and Geminiani: Danielle de Niese (soprano) Il Giardino Armonico. Conductor: Giovanni Antonini. Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes. Chamber Hall. Valladolid. 27. 1.2010 (JMI)

Since its inauguration in March 2007, Valladolid’s Auditorium Miguel Delibes has offered some very attractive programming, featuring an annual cycle of operas and some recitals by great orchestras and singers. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants were already here this season now we have soprano Danielle De Niese with Antonini and his Il Giardino Armonico. In March a concert by Edita Gruberova is announced, while in April we will have Cecilia Bartoli with La Scintilla. In May a concert version of Monteverdi's opera "Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria" will be given by Rinaldo Alessandrini and the cycle will come to an end with Giovanni Antonini and a concert version of a true rarity in the form of Vivaldi’s "Ottone in Villa". This is a important cycle by any standards and Valladolid has much to thank Enrique Rojas for, because of the quality of the programmes he has been offering. Let us hope that his retirement does not bring a change to this excellent tradition.

The Californian soprano Danielle de Niese is one of a crop of singers who have had much greater projection within the world of opera following a Glyndebourne debut - as Cleopatra almost 4 years ago, in her case. This attractive soprano has everything necessary to succeed in opera today: a splendid and attractive stage presence, sympathy, exceptional performing skills, a broad and attractive voice and - last but not least – lots of media gossip about her personal relationship with the chairman of the Glyndebourne Festivals.

It is possible however that Ms De Niese loses some of her artistic appeal in concert performances, where all attention has to be focused on her vocal skills, which are only a part of her total artistry. My overall impression after this concert was that we heard a very good singer, but perhaps not an exceptional one. Somehow, without the trappings of sets and costumes, she conveyed a certain lack of emotion, something always particularly necessary for a singer in the baroque repertoire. Her first two arias, "Morrai" from Rodelinda and the wonderful "Lascia ch'io pianga" from Rinaldo, were sung absolutely correctly in terms of vocal technique and attention to the conventions of the period, but there is arguably more to being an outstanding Handel singer than giving out the right notes perfectly. More of the same thing happened with Cleopatra’s aria “V’adoro pupille” although she was better in this bravura piece with its demanding coloratura. In the second part of the concert she was still much the same to my mind: thoroughly competent in both the cantata Apollo and Daphne and her Rodelinda aria, although still somewhat emotionally low-keyed. She was better again though in her interpretation of Cleopatra’s arias "Piangerò la sorte mia" and "Da Tempeste", receiving warm applause from the public for each. In her two encores she offered a surprising contrast; a fairly dull version of "Ombra mai fu" from Xerxes, was followed by Ginevra’s aria from Ariodante, where at last she revealed all of her talents. This was easily the best thing in the whole concert.

Il Giardino Armónico and, above all, their conductor Giovanni Antonini were uniformly excellent, something that unfortunately highlighted the problems with the soloist’s performances Antonini is a conductor who exudes energy from every pore of his body and his musical performances always carry his personal stamp. In addition to accompanying Ms de Niese, they playe La Introduzione Teatrale No 5 by Pietro Locatelli, two excellent Concerti Grossi by Handel and the work known as La Folia by Francesco Saverio Geminiani. I confess that I enjoyed much Maestro Antonini and his group more than Danielle De Niese.

The Concert Hall had some empty seats but the audience was more than happy and dedicated cheers to all of the artists on stage.

José M Irurzun

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