Magazine article Opera Canada

Agrippina. (Opera in Review)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Agrippina. (Opera in Review)

Article excerpt

Glimmerglass Opera had a particularly strong season. The orchestra, usually a weak spot, was much improved, while the singing was, for the most part, first-rate. The repertoire was also very interesting. The war-horse was Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, with the other three productions being rarely performed works.

Handel's Agrippina was nothing short of brilliant, with a crisp ensemble led by conductor Harry Bicket, evocative sets and costumes by John Conklin and Jess Goldstein, and most of all, an insightful vision from director Lillian Groag. She concentrated on the dark side of the characters, with clever use of anachronistic costumes and wonderfully inventive stage business to reveal inner character. Soprano Alexandra Coku was outstanding in the title role. She does not have the most beautiful voice in the world, but she is so dramatically expressive, it doesn't matter. Coku is also such a natural stage animal that she rivets the eye. Mezzosoprano Beth Clayton's trouser-role Nerone was marvellous. Not only does she sport a deep, rich voice, she can also act up a storm. Karen Wierzba used her sweet lyric soprano to good advantage as Poppea, while bass-baritone Derrick Parker was fabulous as Claudio. His lush, warm voice enfolds the listener in a rich cocoon of sound, and as a stage personality, he has charisma to bu rn. Unfortunately, the usually reliable countertenor David Walker (Ottone) seemed to be singing below his natural range and was experiencing serious vocal problems.

Director Christopher Alden, conductor Stewart Robertson and designer Paul Steinberg produced a riveting production of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, set in the 1946 time period of its premiere, with its overtones of Fascism and hypocritical morality. Alden brilliantly added an extra layer of disquiet by turning the Male and Female Chorus into a couple in crisis, whose subjective reactions to the rape story added volumes to the subtext. Robertson's edgy, agitated reading of the score was wonderful, as were Steinberg's minimal, claustrophobic sets. As for the singing, there was not a weak link in the entire cast. Tenor William Burden and soprano Christine Goerke, both excellent singers, managed to tell two stories, their own and Lucretia's, which is no mean feat Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, in the title role, is a shining talent whose rich, clear, expressive sound should lead her to a major international career. …

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