Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Sexy Beast

March 25, 2009

David Daniels, Harry Bicket, and the English Concert
Photo: mine 2009
David Daniels, the well-regarded countertenor, receives enthusiastic ovations wherever he performs. He has an international career and is the artist of choice in his corner of the repertoire. Despite all this, though, he may still be one of the most underrated vocalists performing today. I can think of few other artists (Karita Mattila, maybe) who are as consistently satisfying in everything they perform. We in Los Angeles were lucky enough to catch one of his splendid visits on Tuesday on his current tour with the English Concert, now under the direction of Baroque specialist Harry Bicket. Bicket and Daniels are far from strangers, and their mutual admiration was evident in this program of works from Bach and Handel. Bicket conducted from the harpsichord for most of the night, not only supporting Daniels but offering a variety of small orchestral ensemble pieces from these two great composers. You really couldn't ask for a better pedigree in a musical evening these days.

Daniels looks like he has shed some pounds since his last stroll through this part of the world and he was particularly bearalicious on Tuesday. And he sang beautifully. The first half of the evening contained a number of Bach arias including "Schlummert ein" from Cantata No. 82 and "Qui Sedes" from the Mass in B Minor. Daniels is currently promoting a Bach recording, and his performances are solid if not as natural a fit as some of the Baroque operatic repertoire. He's an expert at vengeance, anger, or despair, and some of the holier sentiments of Bach's sacred works are a bit far afield despite his lovely tone. Bicket and the members of the English Concert gave very considerate takes on the Suite No. 1 in C major and a Sinfonia from Cantata No 42. It was the second part of the evening where things really began to heat up. This is Daniels' home territory and it showed in the four arias including "Ombra cara" from Radamisto. The highlight, though, was “Furibondo” from Partenope, which flew by with wonderful zest and control from Daniels. He leans into the music and does what the best singers always do, communicate their own love and excitement about what they're singing to the audience. The crowd was ecstatic giving him and the English Concert a resounding ovation.

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