~HWV 18~

Arthaus Musik 100 702
2 DVDs
full price
Recorded in 2001.*
Released in 2002.

Bajazet: Thomas Randle, tenor
Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz, soprano
Graham Pushee, countertenor
Monica Bacelli, contralto
Anna Bonitatibus, mezzo-soprano
Antonio Abete, bass

The English Concert (on period instruments)
Directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock
Stage Direction: Jonathan Miller
Costumes: Judy Levin

  • Region code: 0.
  • Picture format: 16:9.
  • Sound format: PCM stereo, Dolby digital 2.0, Dolby digital 5.1.
  • Special features: score plus (possibility to have the score superimposed on the picture), production documentary, interviews, interactive chronology and historical film footage about the Handel Festival.




(For a concise and efficient presentation of the work, see David Vickers’s review of the CD recording.)

Jonathan Miller has chosen a minimalist stage design made of two bronze folding screens, completed by a sober throne. Maybe this simplicity and this only scenery could be partly explained by the will of producing a low cost staging easy to move for an international tour. It certainly aims at a high concentration on the characters and their psychological relationships. However, particularly in such an intense psychological drama, the scenery is not just decorative. The representation of different kinds of places (indoor/outdoor, open/close, build by the hands of man/nature, etc., with many possible combinations), whether it is realistic or not, is linked to the course of the drama and makes sense. Thus such a production, which offers very little to see and certainly aims to enlighten the drama, instead tends to level it.

At least the problem is less prominent on a video as the shots enabled by the cameras bring a specific element of variety. The stasis which sometimes looked like non-theatre in big halls – this production was created in the small theatre of Bad Lauchstädt, near Halle – is acceptable on the video, all the more the singers are good actors and deserve to be seen closely, even if Monica Bacelli’s grimaces are sometimes irritating.

Concerning the interpreters, the English Concert and Trevor Pinnock are as excellent as they were on the CD. Monica Bacelli was the weakest point of the cast on stage and on the CD – her voice just doesn’t really fit the title role – but here she is satisfactory, as is Elisabeth Norberg-Schulz as Asteria. Though Thomas Randle sometimes sings forcefully, his Bajazet is particularly dense and convincing in the highlights of the work. Man could easily imagine a smoother timbre than the one of the Australian countertenor Graham Pushee, and his intonation is not perfect, but his stylish musicality is ideal for Andronico. Last but not least, Antonio Abete is beyond reproach in the small part of Leone, and Anna Bonitatibus is more than excellent: let us hope we will have other occasion to see her in Handelian parts.

*Recorded in 2001 at Bad Lauchstädt during the Halle Händel-Festspiele

© Philippe Gelinaud - March 2003

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