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Dissenting view - really, aren't there better ears around?
on February 20, 2009
Really cannot agree with other reviewers who raved about this performance.
I think the major drawback is three-fold:
(1) the conducting;
(2) the protagonist Bartoli; and
(3) the protagonist Daniels.
As for the goodies, I'd mention first and foremost the pitch perfect, tone perfect, diction perfect, interpretation perfect performance of Luba Orgonasova, one of the foremost coloratura sopranos of the early 21st century.
Her Armida is about the only 'shine' in this performance. And Gerald Finley's Argante matches up to her almost 95% of the time, hence this supporting pair really saved an otherwise lackluster performance. Other adequate performances come primarily from Mehta and Taylor, with Bernanda Fink to a lessor extent. So you see - ALL the BIG names are NOT on par with the lessor names.
It is time to STOP believing in big names, perhaps.
Cecilia Bartoli's Almirena is a joke - a dry-voiced, husky mezzo-soprano, no way comparable to Miah Pierrson for Rene Jacobs, though Pierrson isn't the perfect Almirena, either. Bartoli's 'Lascio chi'o pianga' is pathetically 'under' - it is undramatic, unlyrical, and quite flat. I cannot understand why a mezzo-soprano is cast here to sing Almirena.
Then the title role of David Daniels. Again, it is high time to wake up from that absurd dream of trying to equate a castrato with a falsettist. Daniels is a good singer, with perfect technique. There is absolutely nothing to fault his performance here - except that - and a BIG exception it is - his timbre and his very limited dynamic range. The role of Rinaldo is way beyond his vocal capacity, yet he has sung this role numerous times. This accounts for WHY this opera cannot be fully appreciated by the modern audience to the same extent as say, Giulio Cesare in Egitto or Serse.
Then the conducting of Hogwood - way too sombre and underpowered.
Postcript}: For those REALLY interested in this opera, there is a bootleg recording of this at Lausanne in 2011, conducted by Diego Fasolis.