* Notes *
Philharmonia Baroque's first performance of The Queen of Egypt concert occurred last night in San Francisco. The evening started with the overture from Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare, and Isabel Bayrakdarian sang the aria "Tra le procelle assorto" from that work. The horns had a few sour notes, and Bayrakdarian warbled a bit, but not unpleasantly. She also had a slight gasp once on the word "dissipar." She continued sounding bird-like in "Morte, col fiero aspetto" from Hasse's Marc'Antonio e Cleopatra, and had another slight gasp. Her diction was not the clearest, but Baroque music tends to be difficult to understand in any case.
Janet See was the soloist for Quantz's Concerto No. 161 for Flute, G Major, QV 5:174, which was played at the end of the first half. See played beautifully, and everyone sounded very much together.
In the second half, the orchestra played the overture from Händel's Giulio Cesare and Bayrakdarian returned to sing "Piangerò, la sorte mia." I have heard this aria butchered more than once in the last few years, and Bayrakdarian sang it refreshingly well. The B section was sung with passion, yet was always tasteful.
Bayrakdarian was allowed the respite of Heinichen's Concerto in F Major, S 234 before the end. Again, there were a few brief moments of the slightest flatness in the horn, but for the most part the piece was played well. Nicolas McGegan took the tempi at a good speed.
The evening finished off with a lullaby from Act I of Matheson's Cleopatra, and "The Death of Cleopatra." A few of Bayrakdarian's breaths were audible, but her voice sounded warm and beautiful, even voluptuous. The very end was lovely, the music just melted into silence.
* Tattling *
There were a few rows with hardly any people in them, but Herbst was fairly full. The audience was well-behaved, the only sound I heard during the music was a cellular phone on vibrate from a person behind me, which went off during the first movement of the flute concerto. During intermission I did overhear someone explain that Beowulf is Scandinavian, and this made my poor coal-black linguist's heart hurt a little. I should really keep my ears to myself.
Isabel Bayrakdarian is as comely has her billboard indicated. She wore three different dresses, all beaded. The first gown was turquoise and brown chiffon, it something like a mermaid and peacock hybrid. The second gown was brown satin with asymmetrical gathering, this one was my favorite and was most becoming. The last gown was black and silver with gathering down the middle.