Last night’s concert by the UoT Fall Baroque Academy was more Sesto in a Sauna then Giulio Cesare in Egitto. The music was all from Handel’s arguably greatest opera but the great man himself went unrepresented. Various mezzos and sopranos plus a counter tenor got through pretty much all of Sesto’s arias, Cleo’s big three arias were all presented and there was a smattering of Cornelia, Tolomeo and one aria from Achilla,the only low voice on display. The venue was Trinity College Chapel, notably not only for lack of air conditioning (on the hottest day of the year) but also for an acoustic that is kind to instrumental ensembles but tends to suck voices up into the high vaulted roof. Some singers coped better than others.
All the singers were accompanied by a twelve piece band led by Jeanne Lamon who did really well throughout. The singing was a bit mixed, as one would expect. I’m not going to do a play by play but rather pick a few highlights. I liked Anna Sharp as Cornelia in Priva son d’ogni conforto. She has a rather rich mezzo that suited the character and the music well. Korin Thomas-Smith gave us Achilla’s Tu sei il cor. It’s an interesting voice. It’s not a true bass but it goes quite low comfortably and there’s plenty of power and flexibility. Kind of like a baby Chris Purves. The pick of the Sestos was perhaps Georgia Burashko with L’angue offesso mai riposa. One might argue that her fairly fruity tone would better suit Cornelia but I was impressed by the control she displayed in the runs.
The Cleos were an interesting bunch. V’adoro pupille was split between Rachel Allen and Madelaine Worndl. The former handled the trills in the A part nicely while the latter offered the first real ornamentation of the night in the repeat. An unusual approach! Lauren Estey offered up Piangero. The start was a bit tentative with not quite the breath needed for the long, lingering lines. The B part was much better, as was the repeat though there wasn’t much attempt to jazz it up. Madison Angus finished up the solos with Da tempeste. This is a different kind of test piece; the ultimate in showy coloratura. I really appreciated the fearlessness with which she threw herself into it. It was accurate and exciting, lacking only the last degree of bravura that it gets from seasoned pros. One to watch I think.
So, all in all a pretty decent show. I’m not sure the Early Music side of UoT Music gets as much attention as the Opera Division so it’s good to get an opportunity to see them in action.