Magazine article Gramophone

Handel

Magazine article Gramophone

Handel

Article excerpt

Handel [DVD]

Theodora

Katherine Watson sop             Theodora
Stephanie d'Oustrac mez             Irene
Philippe Jaroussky counterten     Didymus
Kresimir Spicer ten             Septimius
Callum Thorpe bass                 Valens
Sean Clayton ten                Messenger

Chorus and Orchestra of Les Arts Florissants / William Christie

Stage director Stephen Langridge Video director Olivier Simonnet Erato (F) (2) [DV] 9029 58899-0 (3h 2' * NTSC * 16:9 * DD5.1 & PCM stereo * 0) Recorded live at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Paris, October 13 & 16,2015

It must be a world record for William Christie to have conducted four different commercial releases of Handel's late masterpiece Theodora--a tragic drama about early Christian martyrdom seldom performed until becoming popularised in the past 20-odd years. Some of the credit for the deserved transformation in the oratorio's fortunes has been its transferability to the opera house; this production by Stephen Langridge was staged at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in 2015. Christie's conducting has theatrical acumen on the whole, although it takes half an hour or so for his tempos to calm down; several numbers early on are mushed by impatient rushing past important details of Handel's musical rhetoric. There are some questionable editorial decisions (carried over from the seminal Peter Sellars production at Glyndebourne in 1996), such as a few insensitive abridgements within numbers.

Katherine Watson captures the full measure of Theodora's dignity, lyricism and profound sublimity in every crucial scene; the middle part of 'Angels, ever bright and fair' has seldom been so beautifully illustrative of the heroine's desperate plight. Philippe Jaroussky's awkward vowels, stilted stage acting and clumsy ornamentation overshadow Didymus's set-piece arias, but his characterisation springs to life when rescuing Theodora from the brothel the chaste affection between the characters is poignantly etched in the gorgeous duet 'To thee, thou glorious son' (with plangent bassoons and impassioned long melodic phrasing from Les Arts Florissants), and in the final act Jaroussky plays a dignified martyr more persuasively than he had been as an ardent hero in Act 1. …

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