* Notes *
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is currently performing Händel's Teseo in the Bay Area. The opera certainly has some very silly moments, and this semi-staged version simply embraced the absurdity. The orchestra is set up around the two harpsichords, with Maestro Nicholas McGegan at one and Hanneke van Proosdij at the other. As a result, a number of the musicians are facing the stage, making it easier for them to engage with the singers. This keeps the orchestra and singers together, and the vocalists have a clear rapport with the instrumental soloists. Because the pit in Herbst Theater for Thursday's performance is so small, theorbo player David Taylor played from the stage. For Clizia's aria "Risplendete, amiche stelle," both Clizia and Arcane interact with Taylor, to amusing effect.
The cast featured many high voices. The two countertenors had opposing problems, Robin Blaze (Arcane) with his upper range, and Drew Minter (Egeo) with his lower notes. They did both act well. Blaze has some sweetness to his voice, but the quality of his high notes has a strained, whooping quality. Minter has a pleasant resonance in the middle of his voice, but the transitions between his head and chest sounds were jarring.
The four sopranos also have sounds distinct from one another, but fared better. Céline Ricci (Clizia) was committed to her acting. As Agilea, Valerie Vinzant started off a bit squeaky, but smoothed out over the course of the performance. Her "M'adora l'idol mio" with the oboe soloist conveyed the conviviality of the evening's proceedings. In the title role, Amanda Forsythe (pictured above) sounded secure and well-supported. Dominique Labelle relished playing the villainess Medea. Labelle's voice is sturdy and rich. She was able to explore an array of emotions, and express these through her sound.
* Tattling *
There were many loud whispers and outright talking in the first half. Quite a few people left at the interval, so the second half was much quieter.