Handel's oratorio is presented here by Luc Bondy in operatic form. And on the most part it is most effective. If I were to be honest though I was not a fan of the production values, the sets are very spare which will be unappealing to some people(especially if you are a traditionalist) and the performers look as though they've just walked off from the street. It did look as though it was part of a rehearsal and for this that was the not the feeling I wanted to have. The scene with Hyllus preparing to leave his mother is rather too casually done. However, the orchestral playing is absolutely fantastic especially in the third act prelude. You can tell that William Christie loves this music and that he specialises in that style, and his lively reading of the score doesn't suggest otherwise. The chorus play narrative and moral roles, both of which are done superbly with the drama sure and the balance between the voices is without fault. The principal singing ranges from very good to outstanding. Toby Spence maybe fares the weakest, mainly because of the scene that I mentioned beforehand being too dramatically casual, but the extreme flexibility of Hyllus' role is done with utmost confidence overall. William Shimell occasionally has moments where he is a little too monochromatic, but vocally and dramatically he is almost always a very commanding lead indeed. Ingela Bohlin is very affecting, with movie-star looks and a truly beautiful voice. Malena Ernman fits the trouser role of Lichas very well, she does bring masculinity to the role and she has a lower register that will take your breath away. The star though is Joyce DiDonato, it is a profoundly moving performance and her technique and singing as always is close to perfect. All in all, a very interesting production. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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