Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe
“No soap opera could outdo the plot of Handel’s Radamisto,” said Scott Cantrell in The Dallas Morning News. Radamisto, prince of Thrace, and his wife, Zenobia, are the model of marital fealty. But the king of Armenia, Tiridate, lusts after Zenobia, and is ready to cast aside his own wife, Polissena, and declare war on Thrace in hopes of winning the princess. And then there’s the matter of Tigrane, the head of Tiridate’s army, who has the hots for Polissena. The drama is intricate and fast-paced, but surprisingly easy to follow in the Santa Fe Opera’s staging, a co-production with the English National Opera that’s full of “arresting visuals and dazzling singing.”
“All six cast members are exceptionally fine Handelians,” said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. Countertenor David Daniels is magisterial as Radamisto, and his performance of the mournful aria “Ombra cara” “utterly quieted the audience.” Mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski sings Zenobia with “luscious sound and lyrical refinement,” and the bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni is supremely menacing as Tiridate. Soprano Laura Claycomb handles the role of Polissena with “agile passagework and nobility.” Another lively soprano, Heidi Stober, portrays Tigrane (a role originally written for a castrato) with subtle expression. And bass-baritone Kevin Murphy stands out in the small role of Farasmane.
Director David Alden’s idiosyncratic style has always ruffled feathers in the hidebound opera world, said Anne Midgette in The Washington Post. In the past, I’ve found his deconstructionist interpretations “at worst ineffective and at best intriguing.” Here he lands “somewhere in the middle,” with a production that remains engaging despite throwing up various postmodern roadblocks. While the director takes liberties with Handel’s original, however, the musicians handle the score with faithful care. The real hero of this Radamisto is the conductor, Harry Bicket, who lives up to his reputation as a baroque specialist and on opening night led a “vivid, taut reading of the opera, with crisp details, that seemed to energize everyone involved.” It’s an excellent example of how a conductor can yoke together an otherwise scattered production.