British baritone Christopher Purves was the lunch special at the Four Seasons Centre today. Along with the amazing Liz Upchurch he gave us a most enjoyable program of Handel, Duparc and Mussorgsky. The two Handel arias were drawn from Handel’s two very different takes on Ovid’s Acis and Galatea. The first from the later (1718) English version “I rage, I melt, I burn!… O ruddier than the cherry tree” is a mostly comic furioso recitative and aria sung with great drama and not a little comedy by Chris but it was rather eclipsed by the next number taken from the earlier (1708) Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. Polyphemus’ aria “Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori” is just nuts but very beautiful. It ranges from the D below the bass staff to the A above it and is a continuous series of insane intervals accompanied by a really simple and very beautiful piano part. It’s amazing anybody can sing it all let alone as well as it was done here.
Next up was a set of three chansons by Duparc; Le manoir de Rosemonde, Extase and Phidylé. This was much lighter lyrical fair and they are probably usually sung by a less hefty voice. I liked Chris’ expressive singing and his French diction was quite admirable.
Then it was on to the heavy fare; Mussorgsky’s Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death). I’ve heard these quite a few times now sung by both male and female voice and they are really good. Chris managed the insidious “dialogues” between Death and his victims with considerable dramatic flair as well as having the power for the big climactic moments. Great playing from Liz here too.
So, another excellent lunchtime in the RBA.