Magazine article The Spectator

Opera Reason over Passion

Magazine article The Spectator

Opera Reason over Passion

Article excerpt

Imeneo Royal College of Music Eugene Onegin Royal Academy of Music This year's London Handel Festival got under way, as usual, with an opera production at the Royal College of Music's Britten Theatre. Imeneo, a late opera of Handel, is unusual in several respects. While it is concerned with amorous intrigue and frustration, there is no dynastic or other political dimension, a welcome change, and one that results in the work's lasting only two hours.

There seems, too, to be an element of self-parody: in Act III the central female character Rosmene, with whom both the chief male characters, Tirinto and Imeneo, are in love, manages to avoid responsibility for her choice between them by feigning madness, singing randomly and swooning.

Once she has chosen Imeneo and told Tirinto to endure rejection calmly, the chorus of Athenians close the piece by saying that reason must take precedence over passion, the same conclusion as the lovers in Cosi fan tutte draw, and just as inanely irrelevant.

I saw the second performance by the first cast, and as almost always at the RCM was impressed by the high standard of singing. Tirinto, the unfavoured suitor, is probably the largest role. Written for a castrato, it was performed by Annie Fredriksson, who injected the immense amounts of coloratura she has to sing with the passion required to make them interesting (to me, no coloratura addict). If she isn't a star in the making, I'll give up speculating on that subject.

The cast, if not on her level, was almost uniformly good vocally, though their acting standard varied. The staging consisted of classical arches, often on the move, but the characters had become moisturiser fanatics, more eager to be pampered and massaged than anything else. Morgan Pearse in the title role arrived in dazzling drag, having been in disguise as an implausible virgin, then sported a suntan and wore designer swimming trunks. That kind of thing left me uneasy about the level of seriousness with which the director Paul Curran took any of the piece. Yet the tone is often intense, especially where Tirinto, after whom it should really be called, is concerned.

Laurence Cumm in g s p ro v ed , a s always, the most judicious of Handelians, with plenty, but not too many, of lively tempi, and with an agreeable richness of tone from the London Handel Orchestra. I'd like to see Imeneo now in a more sober production and with the same singers. …

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