Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Handel – Amadigi di Gaula


Amadigi –
Lawrence Zazza

Dardano – Patricia Bardon

Melissa / Orgando – Simone Kermes

Oriana – Klara Ek

Solo Trumpet – David Blackadder

Academy of Ancient Music / Christopher Hogwood

Barbican Hall, London – 18 May 2007


Already the countdown has started to the 250 th anniversary of Handel's death, coming up on 14 April 2009, and Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music were right on the start line with the first of three concert performances * of his lesser known operas which will lead up to the main celebrations.


Amadigi (or Amadis) di Gaula was the hero of one of literatures best known romances of chivalry, the role model for Don Quixote's aspirations to knight errantry, and in this operatic version requires a singer of heroic stamina to deliver two duets and eight taxing arias (5 of them in the first Act). The very pure voice of American counter tenor, Lawrence Zazza, fitted the bill completely. He showed great flexibility in moments of furious coloratura, and even more impressive control in his pianissimos.


Ranged against Amadigi is the enchantress Melissa sung by Simone Kermes a singer with a flamboyant sense of style. For the occasion she had coloured her hair a fiery red, and this was perfectly set off by the very high ruffled collar in turquoise velvet of her quite amazing dress – an outfit completed by stilt like golden sandals. Her singing was just as spectacular. In Act 1 she is still holding her cards to her chest and hoping to win over Amadigi's love. As she sang Ah! spieto!e non ti muove she drained her voice of colour, letting it sound detached and mysterious, but when her entreaties failed she released a mounting storm of rage, culminating in her summons to the powers of hell Destero dall'empia Dite reinforced by an equally furious trumpet solo (David Blackaddder). This aria ends Act 2, and after their bows Simone Kermes walked round to collect David Blackadder from his place in the orchestra and they left the platform arm in arm: a gesture much appreciated by the audience


Patricia Bardon, in a princely velvet coat dress with sweeping train, took the part of Dardano, Amadigi's rival in love. The very wide range of her voice was much in evidence, starting with a recitative almost “sung from her boots”, rising to the top of her register in Tu mia speranza , and falling again for her final offstage aria from beyond the grave.


The heroine of the piece is Oriana spends pretty much the whole opera imprisoned in a tower. Klara Ek has a voice which is rich and warm and radiates sincerity. Singing straight to the audience with almost no reference to the score, her Oh caro mio tesor was meltingly tender, and her Act 3 duet with Amadigi Cangia al fine il tuo rigore was the most moving piece of the evening.


The orchestra played superbly, and I must again mention the trumpeter, David Blackadder, who had a further major part to play in Act 3 returning in the sinfonia which marks the transformation of Melissa's cave into beautiful palace, and to accompany Amadigi in his joyful finale aria Senta la gioia. Christopher Hogwood is an undisputed master of this type of music and he is a lovely conductor to watch, embracing the orchestra shaping the music with his arms.


Serena Fenwick


* Next in the sequence will be Flavio at the Barbican on 17 April 2008