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Handel’s Tamerlano from English Touring Opera in efficiency that actually drew you into the drama


Handel: Tamerlano - Jorge Navarro Colorado, James Hall - English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)
Handel: Tamerlano – Jorge Navarro Colorado, James Corridor – English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)


Handel: Tamerlano; Jorge Navarro-Colorado, Ellie Laugharne, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo, James Corridor, April Koyejo-Audiger, director James Conway, conductor Jonathan Peter Kenny; English Touring Opera at Hackney Empire
Reviewed 8 October 2022 (★★★★★)

A darkly critical, intense account of one in all Handel’s best operas, showcasing some fantastically dramatic and extremely musical performances

In his programme word James Conway describes Handel’s Tamerlano as ‘one of the crucial good and austere artistic endeavors’, so maybe no shock that Conway ought to select this as his remaining new manufacturing as creative director of English Touring Opera. The manufacturing opened on Saturday 8 October 2022 on the Hackney Empire, performed by Jonathan Peter Kenny, with Jorge Navarro Colorado as Bajazet, Ellie Laugharne as Asteria, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo as Tamerlano, James Corridor as Andronico and April Koyejo-Audiger as Irene. Designs had been by Rebecca van Beeck, lighting by Tim van’t Hof.

Rebecca van Beeck’s set was a semi-abstract development of grills and gantries, which set off the tiny cage by which Jorge Navarro Colorado’s Bajazet was confined. Costumes had been loosely historic impressed fashionable, this wasn’t happening in a selected place, but there was clear differentiation between the assorted teams. It wasn’t a glitzy manufacturing; the massive set items had no extraneous theatrical dazzle and there have been no supers. Tamerlano’s court docket was primitive and violent, drama was darkish and concentrated, with emphasis on the characters’ interplay and their emotional journeys. 

Handel: Tamerlano - April Koyejo-Audiger, Ellie Laugharne, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo, Jorge Navarro Colorado, James Hall  - English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)
Handel: Tamerlano – April Koyejo-Audiger, Ellie Laugharne, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo, Jorge Navarro Colorado, James Corridor  – English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)

Initially confined to a cage and apparently topic to the lash, Jorge Navarro Colorado’s Bajazet was broken from the outset. All the time a classy singer Navarro Colorado mixed an excellent sense of Handel’s music, and a few sensible but apposite ornamentations with a dramatic depth that bordered on the disturbing. This Bajazet was by no means going to be simple, and his deep have to evade and get one higher over his conqueror was uppermost. Conway and Navarro Colorado introduced out Bajazet’s sense of possession of his daughter, Asteria (Ellie Laugharne) relatively than warming the character with tender look after her. There have been intimate moments between the 2, notably in Act Three, however general, it was a disturbing relationship. Navarro Colorado topped a stupendous efficiency with demise scene that dramatically appeared fashionable but stayed musically throughout the 18th century conventions. A terrific achievement.

James Corridor made a noble and notable Andronico. This was the position sung on the premiere by Senesino, and the emphasis is on Andronico’s ethical dilemma. This could make him appear weak in fashionable efficiency, however by some means Corridor and Conway introduced out the ethical facet to the character, the best way he was torn between his patron (Tamerlano) and his lover (Asteria). Andronico makes unhealthy selections, however Corridor’s efficiency, notably within the lengthy aria that closed Act One, drew us in. This was very good critical, dramatic singing. As Conway says within the programme word, the opera doesn’t sparkle or aptitude, however Corridor drew out its sombre but musically satisfying qualities.

Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo succeeded in capturing the changeable ingredient in Tamerlano, you by no means fairly knew what he was going to do, and he modified temper on a pin. This Tamerlano was violent and dominating, however not overly so, and he might attraction too, however at all times with an underlying sense that you just needed to be cautious. All the time. Sosa Dal Pozzo managed to make the arias transfer in the identical sphere, a few of Tamerlano’s writing is surprisingly upbeat, but Sosa Dal Pozzo by no means as soon as moved the character out of vary, making a nice distinction with Corridor’s Andronico.

Handel: Tamerlano - Ellie Laugharne, Jorge Navarro Colorado - English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)
Handel: Tamerlano – Ellie Laugharne, Jorge Navarro Colorado – English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)

We final noticed Ellie Laugharne as Elsie Maynard in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard on the Grange Competition. This was very, very totally different and a exceptional change. Laugharne’s voice is probably on the lighter facet for the position, however she introduced a way of metal to the character. By no means pushing the voice past beautiful, however bodily and vocally giving us the sensation of the rigidity of her emotions. Laugharne’s physique hardly ever relaxed, she was bolt upright, very a lot her father’s daughter. We by no means doubted her emotions for Corridor’s Andronico, however her dedication to her father overrode the whole lot. The exceptional scene that ended Act Two (with its echoes of the same scene with Ottone within the earlier night time’s Agrippina) actually gripped and the act ended together with her touching and transferring aria.

April Koyejo-Audiger’s Irene was quiet and watchful. She got here onto the stage early in a few scenes and all through introduced a beautiful feeling of focus and stillness to the position. She was positively different, from a distinct tradition (Irene is a Byzantine Greek from Trebizond) and her strategy to Tamerlano was totally different, extra pragmatic. There have been moments, nevertheless, after I needed her to understand the position extra and make Irene’s music extra vividly dramatic. 

Within the pit, Jonathan Peter Kenny drew finely dramatic taking part in from the Previous Road Band, matching the color and timbre of the stage manufacturing admirably.

Handel: Tamerlano - April Koyejo-Audiger, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo, Ellie Laugharne, James Hall  - English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)
Handel: Tamerlano – April Koyejo-Audiger, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Rodrigo Sosa Dal Pozzo, Ellie Laugharne, James Corridor – English Touring Opera (Richard Hubert Smith)

This was a critical and sombre night, however one the place the robust character of every of the performers drew you in. Basically this can be a black field drama, 5 individuals confined to a single location and the dramatist merely seeing what is going to occur. There isn’t a glitz, and the energy of this efficiency was that we did not want it, the singers drew us in. Every strongly differentiated; but forming a nice ensemble with nobody singer dominating. This was very satisfying, grown-up Handel efficiency.

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