Saturday, 16 October 2010


13/10/10, ENO

3 hrs 15 mins. Handel's tale of a defeated prince (Radamisto), his loyal wife (Zenobia), the tyrant who defeats him and covets his wife (Tiridate) and Tiridate's own downtrodden wife (Polissena), the type of the willingly abused and submissive partner. Oh, and R's father Farasmane, Tiridate's prisoner; and Tiridate's ally, Tigrane, who is in love with Polissena and turns out to be a decent enough cove after all despite a not-always-successful penchant for interfering. Symbolised in this production by dressing him as a seedy representative of the Empire in rumpled white linen suit while all around are in exotic "Oriental" gear of one sort or another, including Japanese-style armour for Tiridate and harem pants for Zenobia. (Some reviewers had him down as a wily Armenian, and I grant the fez is suggestive, but I prefer to see Radamisto-land as Afghanistan and Tigrane as a representative of the British, Russian and American empires, all of which have meddled in that godforsaken land to disastrous effect.)

Much though I love his music, there's no denying that, until you're familiar with them, each Handel opera sounds much like every other, and this was no exception. But it was jolly enough. Zenobia (Christine Rice) has a fine aria in which she offers to sacrifice herself to save her husband. There are several other good tunes. Radamisto (an American counter-tenor called Lawrence Zazzo with a powerful voice) is somewhat underwritten. Tigrane was sung by Ailish Tynan and provided the comic relief (Dr T asked why the part was written for a soprano: it wasn't of course, as a glance at the casting in other recent productions, who usually ask a tenor to sing it, confirmed).

The evening passed agreeably if unmemorably. The theatre was half empty, which seemed a shame given the quality of the music, the singing and the production. Here are some other reviews:

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