Set for Act II of Radamisto
Photo : Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2008
Now that’s more like it. Santa Fe Opera’s new production of Handel’s Radamisto
is fantastic. Bitch and moan all you want about Daivd Alden’s modern, sleek, quasi-Asian/Middle Eastern production, this is why I keep coming back to Santa Fe: it represents some of what they do best – fresh, fun, and musically sensitive performances of things you don’t see everyday that deserve a wider audience. Now as I’ve noted here
before, I’m biased in that I love, love, love Baroque opera. Forget Verdi, Mozart, and Wagner. Opera was over after Handel. (With the possible exception of Massenet.) He said it all and turned the shit out. In fact I get rather bummed out when cuts are made, which there were here in Santa Fe, leaving about 2 hours and 40 minutes when all was said and done. This is easily an hour less than the excellent edited earlier version of Radamisto
Musica Angelica presented in Los Angeles earlier this year. (See the link above.)
This fully staged performance in Santa Fe may be shorter but it is not for lack of big name talent. In fact the most surprising thing may be that its stars David Daniels and Laura Claycomb have never appeared here before. Daniels is perhaps the most consistently excellent vocal artist before the public today. I can’t recall ever seeing him give a performance that was anything other than superior and his Radamisto is no exception. At turns heart-breaking and rageful he commands the stage. And while all the cast were great, however, I would also point out Heidi Stober’s Tigrane, which sounded amazing underneath the heavy suit of a balding middle-aged man with a fez. She frequently walks off with scenes.
And while we’re on the topic of artists who are consistently excellent, I should mention Harry Bicket who returns to Santa Fe to conduct these performances. Exciting, well-paced, lively and never rushed, the orchestra was dead-on tonight and clearly have a rapport with this master of Baroque repertory. It's a wonderful evening that isn't cluttered and doesn't take itself too seriously, which is always a necessary requirement for Baroque opera. And don't miss the fake stuffed tiger pierced with numerous arrows hung from the roof in the final scene. It's borrowed directly from the work of Cai Guo-Qiang
and floats among a whole host of animal symbols throughout the production. There are two shows left on August 15 and 20th both of which I'd catch if I was in town.
Labels: Santa Fe Opera 08