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Monteverdi etc (Le Jardin des voix & Les Arts Florissants)


Monteverdi : Questi vaghi concenti; Io mi son giovinetta; Mentre vaga Angioletta; Dal mio permesso amato; Lamento della ninfa; Possente spirito; Pur ti miro

Marini : Passacaglio a 3 & a 4

Carissimi : Tra piu riposte abissi dell'Erebo

Cavalli : Lucidissima face

Handel : Ritorno nel coro , vezzosa brillante; M'hai resa infelice; Vo fa Guerra

Piccinni : Furia di donna irata

Haydn : Son quest'occhi

Le Jardin des voix / Les Arts Florissants / William Christie


Francesca Boncompagni, Laura Hynes Smith, Claire Meghnagi & Sonya Yoncheva – sopranos

Amaya Dominguez – mezzo soprano

Michal Czerniawski – counter tenor

Pascal Charbonneau, Juan Sancho & Nicholas Watts – tenors

Jonathan Sells - bass

Director (Semi-staging) – Elsa Rooke

Costume Designer – Bruno Fatalot

The Barbican Hall -
24 March 2007


Le Jardin des voix is quite simply the leading academy for the Baroque repertoire, giving young singers the unique opportunity to work with William Christie and his world famous les Arts Florissants ensemble.

Candidates from all over the world are invited to apply and after auditions in Zurich, Paris, New York and London, a final select group of “prize winners” is chosen – this year ten singers all below the age of thirty.


This group assembled in Caen during February for a period of intensive study working on “ various questions of rhythm, ornamentation, harmonic colour, the musicality of the language, and language itself – all the elements that together make up the different styles of Baroque music… and present our audiences with the full flavour of this fabulous music.” [William Christie],


It is not just a theoretical exercise, it leads immediately into a month-long whirlwind tour of public concerts taking in ten European cities and culminating in New York 's Lincoln Centre. Their concert at the Barbican was scheduled towards the end of the tour, time enough for the programme to be thoroughly polished, though also when fatigue might just be a factor.


I saw no hint of tiredness as everyone filed onto the platform. The music in the programme had been arranged in roughly chronological sequence, beginning with a group of madrigals. Minimal instrumental accompaniment was required here, predominantly the harp of Siobhan Armstrong and theorbo of Brian Feehan. William Christie had taken a seat in the midst of his orchestra, arms at his side, with an avuncular smile spreading right over his face, as the singers moved around the stage with what looked like free abandon (though no doubt carefully directed) singing the ensembles with breathtaking accuracy.


Next came operatic excerpts with full orchestra and Christie conducting. These included two lovely solos from Orfeo : Claire Meghnagi giving a spirited performance of La Musca's Dal mio permesso amato and the big set piece ( ‘Possente spirto in which Orfeo uses all his whiles to to persuade Charon to ferry him over the Styx faithfully built up by Nicholas Watts. A succession of angry ladies followed after the interval, each sweeping the most complex of music effortlessly from their path, amongst them Sonya Yoncheva's clever balancing Deidamia's rage and regret was particularly noteworthy.


Others that impressed were Candian, Pascal Charbonneau, with a sumptuous tenor which sounds as though he will be set for a career in a wide range of music, and two singers from opposite ends of the male vocal scale, counter tenor Michal Czerniawski and bass Jonathan Sells, both showing real promise and names to look out for.


A further treat came towards the end of the evening. The extract from Rinaldo was played in the edition by William Babell including solos – possibly those which Handel himself played - in which the harpsichord mimics and reinforces Armida's cries of vengeance. Whatever their precise origin, Benoit Hartoin played them with breathtaking speed and virtuosity,


Serena Fenwick