The Opéra de Lausanne is a small and very beautiful theatre, perfect for baroque opera, so this Ariodante, by Haendel, was really at home there! As you may remember, I just saw another Ariodante, in Amsterdam, three months ago, so it was hard to avoid comparisons. This production was very stylized, outside of time and space. The scene was often very empty, and the few chorus bits were sung from outside the stage. The result is a very intimate, personal drama: a psychological tragedy. The costumes were impressive: the men in leather, with large black overcoats fluttering about, while Ginevra had really sumptuous costumes, lots of fabric. The direction was a bit boring, but not offensive, nor distracting. In this production, just like in Amsterdam’s, there was no happy ending: Ginevra and Ariodante sing the final duet without looking at each other, and leave separately afterwards. This seems a very modern and reasonable solution: Ariodante believes Ginevra to be unfaithful based on the flimsiest evidence; faced with a suspect, instead of talking to her he immediately believes she’s cheating and tries to commit suicide. Everybody believes her unfaithful, based on a last note written by Ariodante, with no evidence at all; her father repudiates her, everybody shuns her. It is not very credible that she just forgets all this in a second, when Ariodante shows up alive and the bad guy confesses his deceit; it is a typical trick of a certain narrative, where women are not real human characters, but just devices to advance the plot, which is a men’s plot.
The Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne was conducted by Diego Fasolis, who I had already heard as the head of his own orchestra, I Barocchisti. I really like them a lot, the harpsicord in particular was on fire! They took the first act in a bit of a rush, fast tempi, not enough musical “breathing”. The interpretation was overall suited to the plot, which, in the first act, sees everybody happy and partying. But in the second and third act they provided much more emotion and were painting with a broader brush.
Ariodante was Yuriy Minenko, an Ukrainian countertenor with a typical countertenor voice. Very good, precise, agile, with strong confident high notes which, alas, are very VERY metallic. The result is a strained voice in the high range. Maybe it’s just me, but I have really low tolerance for metallic high notes. In the video above, Dopo notte, from the Lausanne performance. He results also not very communicative, often his coloratura sounds more like a technical exercise than anything else. I am being very critical against a singer who I actually enjoyed quite a bit, but part of the reason is that the comparison with Sarah Connolly (the Ariodante in Amsterdam) is really merciless. Minenko is good, but Connolly is a genius.
Marina Rebeka was at her debut as Ginevra. I had already heard her in Vienna, she was Juliette to Florez’ Roméo in Gounod’s opera, and I had liked her very much. She confirmed herself as a very good singer, her voice has a very beautiful timbre and her coloratura is brilliant and precise, but, in my opinion, baroque music is not for her, at least not in such a small theatre. Her voice is very suited for the Wiener Staatsoper, both venue and orchestra, but in a small theatre, with a baroque orchestra, surrounded by countertenors, she really sounds like a hen with her brood of chickens. Jeez, Rebeka certainly doesn’t deserve to be compared to a hen, she sings like an angel, but you understand what I mean. Sometimes her high notes were so shiny and piercing that they were too loud, and this certainly was not the case in Vienna. In my humble opinion she should remain on a lyric-soprano-repertoire, I don’t think baroque suits her. Nevertheless, her singing was glorious, and her interpretation very convincing.
And here we come to Christophe Dumaux, who, as Polinesso, stole the show from everybody else! His countertenor voice, as opposed to Minenko’s, is round, smooth, velvety, and very uniform. It is also very powerful and confident in his coloratura, it projects wonderfully towards the audience and it gives him a strong musical presence. This, in turn, is reflected in a fantastic stage presence. His interpretative skills were not put to the test by a character who is very unidimensional, pure evil. But the charisma he exudes is tangible, and (as I have already said about Bartoli) when he’s on stage, you can’t watch anything else. He’s also very easy on the eyes, and the result was a charismatic Polinesso, a dark and handsome bad guy, irresistible. All in all, it made Dalinda’s character more credible, in her taking part in his schemes because she loves him. In the video below, the aria Dover, giustiza, amor, from the performance in Lausanne.
Dalinda was Clara Meloni, a real baroque soprano, a light and crystal clear voice, with beautiful coloratura. I really would like to hear her as Ginevra, I think she would do great. She looks very young, I’ll try to follow her.
Lurcanio, Ariodante’s brother, was the tenor Juan Sancho, a very tiny man, he must weigh no more than 20 kilos or so, with a good voice with great projection and very high: he passes from high notes to falsetto smoothly and with no effort. He really sings well, but his acting is a bit wanting. He acts a bit like the stereotypical opera singer: clutching pearls and clinging to curtains.
The baritone Johannes Weisser was the King of Scotland, Ginevra’s father. A screamer, unfortunately. He screams in tune, but he screams. When he said “Non sei mia figlia!” (you are not my daughter) I really felt like Aida’s father was on stage, and I expected “dei faraoni tu sei la schiava!” (you are the slave of the Pharaoh!). Not a great baroque style.
The global impression was very good, a performance of very high level. And baroque opera confirms itself as one of the things in the world which gives me more joy.