Philippe Jaroussky

Philippe Jaroussky & VBO at GMC

Philippe_jaroussky__c_simon_fowler_licensed_to_virgin_classics* Notes * 
Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (pictured left, photograph by Simon Fowler) is currently on tour with Orchestra Barocca di Venezia (VBO) and performed yesterday at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center. The program is entitled "A Legendary Battle: Farinelli & Porpora vs. Carestini & Händel" and includes instrumental works by both composers interspersed with eight arias written for castrasti. VBO seems to consist of a harpsichordist, eight violinists, two violists, two cellists, a bassist, a bassoonist, a lute player, two oboists, and two horns. The playing was best when the tempi were meant to be brisk and the volume loud. The quieter, slower Minuetto of Porpora's Overture from Il Germanico was slightly lax. The Largo e piano of Händel's Concerto Grosso in A Minor was unfocused compared to the Allegro movements that proceeded and followed it. Händel's Concerto Grosso in G Major has three Allegro movements, and certainly was the most charming of the instrumental selections.

Jaroussky sounded as sublime as ever. His voice has such an open ease to it. He sang Porpora's "Mira in cielo" from Arianna e Teseo and "Si pietoso il tuo labro" from Semiramide riconsciuta with haunting beauty. The two arias from Händel's Alcina, "Mi lusinga il dolce affeto" and "Stà nell'Ircana pietrosa tana" also came off well. The different colorings of the word "cacciator" in the latter alone were impressive. Likewise, after intermission Jaroussky did splendidly with Händel's "Agitato da fiere tempeste" from Oreste and "Scherza infida" from Ariodante. The concert ended with two arias from Porpora's Polifemo and the encore was Geminiano Giacomelli's "Sposa, non mi conosci."

* Tattling * 
The audience members were, for the most part, quiet. No electronic noises were noted. The woman in the third row from the stage, Seat 9, insisted on talking to both her neighbors, one of whom was her daughter. She did stop vocalizing after being hushed twice, but also had the sniffles and may have fallen asleep. She and her daughter did have the good sense to leave after the interval.

Philippe Jaroussky & Apollo's Fire at Cal Performances

PhilippeJaroussky_01* Notes * 
Apollo's Fire, lead by harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, performed in Berkeley yesterday afternoon as part of a North American tour with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (pictured left). The Cleveland-based early music ensemble is aptly named, and the musicians certainly do play with fiery passion under Sorrell's direction. The intonation was imperfect, but it was heartening to hear how much energy was brought to the music. The program began with Vivaldi's Allegro from the Concerto Grosso in D major, arranged here by Sorrell. The ensemble went right into Händel's "Agitato da fiere tempeste" from Oreste as Jaroussky walked onto the stage. This was followed by "Ho perso il caro ben" from Il Parnasso in Festa, also by Händel. Jaroussky's voice is otherworldly, being very flexible and having such an ease to it. The violin concerto (Vivaldi's Op. 8, No. 5) interspersed between the first two Händel arias and the second two was rather more strained. One was struck by how violent the attacks were in this piece. The following arias were from Imeneo and Ariodante. Jaroussky sang both "Se potessero i sospir miei" and "Con l'ali di constanza" seamlessly. His breath control is astounding, and it is odd indeed that such an ethereal, gorgeous sound is produced by a rather awkward, skinny fellow.

The second half of the concert started with Händel's Prelude in A major, for solo harpsichord and his Chaconne from Terpsichore (Il pastor fido). This was followed by three Vivaldi arias: "Se mai senti spirati sul volto" from Catone in Utica, "Vedrò con mio diletto" from Giustino, and "Frà le procelle" from Tito Manlio. Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso "La Follia" gave Jaroussky a break between the first and second arias, and also showed off the ensemble's playing to best effect. Jaroussky sang the Vivaldi splendidly. The three encores were an aria by Porpora, "Venti, turbini" from Händel's Rinaldo, and "Ombra mai fu" from Händel's Serse.

* Tattling * 
The audience was, for the most part, quiet and attentive. Unfortunately, someone's watch alarm rang many times during two of the Vivaldi arias, and a cellular phone rang as well.

Orlando Furioso at Champs-Élysées

Orlando-furioso * Notes * 
Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was an airy, understated affair. Directed by Pierre Audi, the action seemed to involve much spinning around, overturning furniture, and the like. Particularly amusing was when Orlando sang to a slowing descending Venetian chandelier at the end of Act II. Patrick Kinmonth's sets and costumes were pleasant in their palette of greys, blacks, and whites. However, it might have been difficult visually to tell the characters from one another.

Ensemble Matheus, conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, played prettily but with a certain jaunty percussiveness. The chorus of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées likewise was fine and together. Romina Basso (Medoro) was consistently just slightly late. Verónica Cangemi was convincing as Angelica, as was Kristina Hammarström as Bradamante. Christian Senn sang Astolfo with great strength and pleasant tone.

In the role of Alcina, Jennifer Larmore was the most commanding I have heard her. She does gasp somewhat, but especially at the end, this did not detract from her performance. Marie-Nicole Lemieux did not seem the most fit as Orlando, but she did project masculinity. She sounded vulnerable from the first scene. She had a loveliness in the last act that was poignant. By far the most impressive was the Ruggiero, Philippe Jaroussky. His clear voice had a gorgeous ease.

* Tattling * 
There was light talking and mobile phone usage throughout the performance. A man who had been sitting on the stairs asked if anyone was sitting in the jump seat off of mine during Act II. This completely confounded me, why would one want to sit so close to a stranger? The person in question did in fact take the seat, and fidgeted for all of the next act. I think he might have had allergies, as he scratched his arms and rubbed his face unceasingly. To avoid further contact with this person, my companion helpfully took my seat for Act III, and I sat in the jump seat.

Les Arts Florissants' 2nd Performance of Giulio Cesare

Scholl2010 * Notes *
The second performance of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel came together better than the first. Les Arts Florissants sounded more cohesive. The concertmaster did not break any strings this time, and her intonation was more accurate, but her playing for "Se in fiorito ameno prato" was still screechy and not beautiful. The horn soloist still hit many unpleasant notes in "Va tacito e nascosto" but her mistakes were less grating than on Tuesday. However, the three horns in the March of the last scene were awful, and were laughed at by various audience members.

The singing was consistent, the cast is extraordinary. Philippe Jaroussky (Sesto) and Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) were definitely at their best in their duet at the end of Act I. Cecilia Bartoli was delicate and sweet in "Vadoro pupille." She also sang "Piangero la sorte mia" exquistely. Andreas Scholl seemed less tense than before, his voice came out more, though he was difficult to hear during "Al lampo dell' armi." He did cough twice during the concert. Scholl sang "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà" with particular elegance.

* Tattling * 
The clapping did not start as early as it had on Tuesday, and people even managed to applaud after the music was done. The audience whispered a little, and there were two very noisy watch alarms on separate occasions. There was a medical emergency in the center terrace during "Da tempeste il legno infranto." As Cecilia Bartoli sang, an older woman lost consciousness, perhaps she fainted or had a seizure. The people around her checked her pulse and tried shaking her awake, but had to fetch medical help. The woman was able to walk out of the hall, but there was a noticeable pause between Cleopatra's aria and the recitative between Cornelia and Sesto that followed.

Les Arts Florissants' Giulio Cesare

Cecilia * Notes *
The Tuesday opening of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel was stunning. For one thing, most of the singing was breathtaking. Both low voices were lovely, these being Andreas Wolf (Curio) and Umberto Chiummo (Achilla). The latter enunciated particularly well, and his aria "Se a me non sei crudele" was strong. Rachid Ben Abdeslam seemed quite excited to be on stage as Nireno, as did Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo. Dumaux is such a clown, perhaps a touch too much for the villain in an unstaged concert version of this work. On the other hand, our tragic Sesto, Philippe Jaroussky, was pitch-perfect. His voice is bright, warm, and light, gleaming above the orchestra. Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) was a fine foil, her voice seemed bottomless.

In the title role, Andreas Scholl, started off quietly, and was overwhelmed by the orchestra at more than one point. His voice warmed up after the night wore on, and the second half went more smoothly than the first. Scholl did crack on one note near the end of "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà," though he sang the rest sublimely. Cecilia Bartoli sang with beauty, she was coy when pretending to be Lidia, and imperious as Cleopatra. There were a few times when Bartoli had too much vibrato, and this wobbling had an unpleasant quality to it. However, overall the singers were wonderful.

Les Arts Florissants had a few mishaps. William Christie did keep the musicians together and his tempi seemed appropriate. In general the playing was clear and fine. However, the concertmaster broke her E string in Act I, and it took a long time for everything to get back in place. It was interesting to watch how she traded her violin with her stand mate, someone from behind passed up a good E string, and the stand mate restrung the concertmaster's violin, trying to get it in tune without disrupting the music. Unfortunately, some of the violin solos were out of tune and squeaky, though this is understandable, given the circumstances. The horn soloist also had some intonation issues, she hit a score of sour notes in "Va tacito e nascosto."

* Tattling * 
The audience was quiet, though the men behind me in the second balcony did talk during the first chorus, were hushed, and snorted derisively at the suggestion that they should be silent. Nonetheless, they did not speak again during the music. The clapping was vehement, and although we were asked to not applaud after each number, somehow our enthusiasm got the better of us. It was a shame that some of us could not wait until after the orchestra stopped playing to cheer and clap.