Handelís ìRadamistoî revisited with mixed results in Hamburg

Those first shows had been well
received both domestically and internationally, with some outstanding singing
from Maite Beaumont, Inga Kalna and David DQ Lee. Unfortunately, the revival
only managed to retain the luminously warm-timbreíd Lee in the title role
and neither Deborah Humble as Zenobia nor Trine Wilsberg Lund as Polissena
could quite match their predecessors, although the latter had some good
moments. Also retained from the previous cast were baritone Florian Boesch,
required to play the tyrant Tiridate as a ridiculously pantomime villain,
bass Tim Mirfin as an elderly King Farasmane, and Hellen Kwon as Prince
Tigrane. Christiane Karg stood in at only 3 days notice to play Fraarte.

Marco Arturo Marelliís intelligent but visually frantic production (he
is responsible for direction and the set/lighting) remains little changed and
is not singer-friendly; in the great tradition of modern German opera it
seems to relegate the music to some minor by-way of the directorís mind.
Handelian purists would be best advised to avoid this production where
tragedy is degraded to vaudeville, and odd conflations of the plot make an
already complex story dramatically questionable. Luckily, Mr. Handel could
cope (doesnít he always?) despite some ragged and sometimes lumpen playing
of this marvellous score under the benign and undemanding conducting of
Martin Haselbˆck. One exception: the natural horns were, on the third night,
extremely proficient ó no easy feat.

Yet there were vocal highlights that rose above this mish-mash of
directorial conceits and bland playing, and they included the strong dramatic
singing of Boesch, who could colour his upstanding baritone from cooing
suitor to bombastic tyrant with ease, the precise and pleasing coloratura of
Kwon, not a natural baroque singer, who warmed to her task in the later acts.
Wilsberg Lund as a feisty Polissena also sang Sposo ingrate, parto
with commendable vigour and passion as she strode about the stage
packing her things to leave her unfaithful husband ó literally a
ìsuitcase ariaî in this production. Most impressive of all was the
beautifully articulated, warmly sensuous singing of David DQ Lee as the
much-troubled Radamisto. He has a free and easy top that cries out for the
higher-lying Handelian castrato roles (popping a high B flat with nonchalance
during his ìrage ariaî Vile! Se mi dai vita) and he achieved
neatly executed divisions whilst convincing entirely with his acting. If, in
his lower range, he fought to be heard on occasion above an orchestra that
sounded as if they only had one dynamic in their range, that was partly due
to the directorís odd insistence on placing him way upstage for most of his
arias. When finally allowed just to sit quietly downstage and sing, his
ìQual nave smarittaî would be hard to better by any countertenor
singing today and showed what an exciting young talent he is.

Sue Loder © 2007

image_description=David DQ Lee (Radamisto), Inga Kalna (Polissena) and Florian Boesch (Tiridate) [May 2007] Photo © Karl Forster/Hamburg Staatsoper.
product_title=G. F. Handel: Radamisto
Hamburg Staatsoper, 6 October 2007
product_by=Above: David DQ Lee (Radamisto), Inga Kalna (Polissena) and Florian Boesch (Tiridate) [May 2007]
Photo © Karl Forster/Hamburg Staatsoper.