With more than three decades in the field, Robert Carsen is celebrated in Europe and America alike for his intelligently conceived and stunning productions, and— as his new Ariodante shows—he is also a master of the surprise ending.
Is it purely serendipitous that the production, which Carsen sets in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, in the company of the Royal Family, with costumes straight out of the series The Crown, coincided with the build-up to and the recent coronation? Ariodante bears a resemblance to Prince William, Ginevra to Princess Kate, Lurcanio is Prince Harry right down to the red-haired wig, Dalinda is Meghan Markle, and the King of Scotland is none other than King Charles III himself.
The young, vibrant cast plays this masquerade to the hilt, slipping in and out of Luis F. Carvalho’s precisely-researched costumes with poise. Emily D’Angelo is radiant in the title role: her voice is sumptuous, focused, and precise, the rapid coloratura passages flow effortlessly, and her endless legato in arias like “Scherza infida” is dumbfounding. She’s a vocal Olympian and the audience is mesmerized by each move and phrase.
Olga Kulchynska is excellent as Ginevra, impressive in each one of her many arias, duos, and cavatinas, progressively winning over our hearts, but—a bit like Kate and Meghan—it is Tamara Banjesevic as Dalinda who steals the show with her dazzling presence and vocal prowess. As for Polinesso, there couldn’t be a countertenor better at playing the villain than Christophe Dumaux. He left his mark on this role in Salzburg in 2017 and has lost none of his extraordinary ease in the low range or his imperious high notes and arrogant demeanor. The excellent American tenor Eric Ferring brings dignity and conviction to the demanding secondary role of Lurcanio. (The reference to Harry’s predicament is not lost)
Bass-baritone Matthew Brook imbues the often-understated role of king (noblesse oblige) with presence and expressivity, especially “Invida sorte avara” where he learns of Ariodante’s death.
British conductor Harry Bicket and the English Concert, playing period instruments, are top-notch, with beautiful, sensitive support for the singers, so essential in arias like “Dopo notte”. And even if the sound is partially lost in Palais Garnier’s vast orchestra pit, they are ideal partners in the many ballets, an integral and essential aspect of the Händel’s masterpiece, ravishingly choreographed by Nicolas Paul in Highland style.
In the end, the couples shed their royal garments, slip into jeans and t-shirts, and set off on their honeymoons, leaving Balmoral behind as a wax museum featuring the immutable figures of the Royal Family.
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OPÉRA NATIONAL DE PARIS
APR 20 – MAY 20
Conductor Harry Bicket
Stage director Robert Carsen
Chorus master Alessandro Di Stefano
Lighting designer Robert Carsen / Peter van Praet
Set designer Robert Carsen / Luis F. Carvalho
Costume designer Luis F. Carvalho
Choreographer Nicolas Paul
Ariodante Emily D’Angelo
Ginevra Olga Kulchynska
Dalinda Tamara Banjesevic
Polinesso Christophe Dumaux
Lurcanio Eric Ferring
Il Re di Scozia Matthew Brook
Odoardo Enrico Casari
Orchester de l’Opéra national de Paris / The English Concert
Choeurs de l´Opéra national de Paris