Han­del

BBC Music Magazine - - Opera Reviews -

Ar­minio

Christo­pher Lowrey, Owen Wil­letts, Anna Devin, So­phie Junker, Cody Qu­at­tle­baum; Fest­pielorch­ester Göt­tin­gen/lau­rence Cum­mings Ac­cent ACC 26409 163 mins (3 discs) Long neglected, Ar­minio is glo­ri­ous. Bold melodies, melt­ing duets, in­sane py­rotech­nics, bustling over­tures and sparkling so­los for the band – what’s not to love? For­get nar­ra­tive logic and you’ll be swept away, by this pro­duc­tion es­pe­cially. Coun­tertenor Christo­pher Lowrey is the Ger­manic chief­tain of the ti­tle role, be­trayed by his fa­ther-in-law Segeste to the in­vad­ing Ro­mans. Surely the best Ar­minio yet recorded, Lowrey hero­ically slices through the busiest pas­sagi, build­ing to ca­denza fi­nales whose vir­tu­os­ity dwarfs the singing he’s just pulled off. Lowrey is as ex­pres­sive as he is ath­letic, and his char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion car­ries the ac­tion through Ar­minio’s im­prob­a­ble re­lease by the Ro­man gen­eral Varo to his re­union with his troops, vic­tory in bat­tle, and for­give­ness of Segeste.

★an­del quick­ened the pace by cut­ting 75 per cent of the li­bretto’s orig­i­nal recita­tive. As Ar­minio dives from one pas­sion into the next, his wife Tus­nelda (Anna Devin), fol­lows close be­hind. Some­times Devin steals the show with her sincerity, vo­cal lus­tre, wist­ful pathos and knock-out ex­tem­po­ris­ing. Both prin­ci­pals draw in­spi­ra­tion from con­duc­tor Lau­rence Cum­mings, whose bril­liant ma­noeu­vring through the score shows why he’s a world-renowned ★an­del in­ter­preter.

Other cast mem­bers give strong sup­port – no­tably So­phie Junker, whose vi­vac­ity as Tus­nelda’s brother Sigis­mondo an­i­mates this plan­gent hero. Some­times the ex­cite­ment of live pro­duc­tion pushes good judg­ment aside: as Segeste, the hugely charis­matic bass-bari­tone Cody Qu­at­tle­baum can de­ploy too much brawn and yo­del his leaps; coun­tertenor Owen Wil­lets, savour­ing his line as the Ro­man tri­bune Tul­lio, for­gets to keep up with Cum­mings’s beat. On-stage thumps are au­di­ble.

This is nonethe­less a mes­meris­ing per­for­mance. Berta Jon­cus PER­FOR­MANCE

RECORD­ING

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