thu 06/08/2020

Handel's Alcina, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

Handel's Alcina, Barbican

Handel's Alcina, Barbican

An unforgettable night for lovers of the Baroque - and the jumpsuit

The bizarrely brilliant Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova stole the show
Classical music does not get any cooler than mezzo Vesselina Kasarova. She jived. She grooved. She shuffled. She shimmied. She possessed the Barbican stage last night, an awesome black jumpsuit hanging off her rangy, kinetic figure, her neck sliding about like an Indian dancer's, her feet (in kitten heels) spinning like a jazzer's, her bullying arms posturing and prodding, her mouth flashing its whites like a primate's. Her voice? Extraordinarily weird, moving, honest, explosive. Her Sta nell'Ircana was a theatrical moment of the year.

Echoing the madness is Minkowski's impeccable orchestra, looping its way round and round with a Purcellian intensity

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Sometimes stillness is a virtue. But that would expose Kasarova's incredibly dodgy technique. Frankly, I'm amazed to hear that she's still singing.

I have to agree with Morgana here. On the few occasions (Verdi Prati being the main casualty, but also the gorgeous Mi Lusinghe) where she had nothing dramatic to hide behind, Kasarova exposed the limits of her technique. Great for coloratura, when it comes to sustained line and tonal/pitch control she simply doesn't have it. Add to this her inability to judge a rit correctly and her one-emotion-fits-all contortions, and for me she is all smoke and mirrors. I did enjoy the jumpsuit though.

I'm with you both. I make no claims for Kasarova's technique; as you both say - as I say - she doesn't have one. But my point is that that matters not a jot. Personality for me will always trump technique. Throw in a striking face (hers was straight from Andrei Rublev), a natty hairdo and a fine jumpsuit (I know, I should just buy one for myself) and I'm yours. What can I say, I'm a materialist.

I saw the show last night, and though not an expert on Baroque Opera, I found the whole evening simply amazing. The ensemble playing of the orchestra; together with the committment and talent of the brilliantly assembled cast, had a magical effect. I wanted to write as I totally disagreed with the above comments about Kasarova. For me, she was unique and spellbinding. Who gives a damn about technique when you are drawing a performance from the dephts of your soul? Bravo to the entire cast! An evening not easily forgotten.

I think the 2nd half was amazing.All the cast unfold in better light including this young Japanese boy who sung with such confidence and amzing technique at his age!!!Wonderful orchestra conducted by a great conductor and what a great music it became!!

I thought the show was grand. Would have loved to hear Harteros as Alcina, but Kalna was also good. As for Kasarova, she is in a class of her own. I'm with Mr. Toronyi-Lalic that her personality and dramatic commitment overshadowed technical irregularities. But she DOES have technique! Just because it isn't a conventional one doesn't mean that it doesn't exist altogether! She chooses to do things other singers wouldn't do. Yes. So what? It works for her. The voice is lush and radiant, full and very agile. How could anyone still have that after 20+years of opera singing and not have technique? I'm personally grateful she does it the way she does. I closed my eyes, listened, and I heard Ruggiero and not a singer trying to sound like Ruggiero. That is opera. Opera is theatrical because it was always meant to be theatrical and not a string of vocal exercises.

Frankly Morgana I'm amazed at your comment. Now in interests of full disclosure I am a) a dyed in the wool hardcore Kasarova fangirl, slinky dress jumpsuit and kitten heels or not and b) a complete ignoramus when it comes to music. But no technique? Really??? Seemed to me the orchestra agreed with me and a huge part of the rest of the audience - she has technique (and passion, and talent, and musicality) dripping out her agressively pointy fingers. I'm not so bedazzled as to not know the difference between a good and a bad performance. Saw her in Idomeneo in Paris and hated it, saw her singing Ruggiero in Vienna two weeks ago and loved it, but no where near as much as I loved this... Quite happy to accept she is not to everyone's taste, and god knows she has her off days, and roles, but to say someone who has devoted their entire adult life to the serious study and practice of singing has 'no technique'... well frankly, there's no need to over-egg the pudding! Saturday was not the first time, nor the first orchestra, I have seen stop and applaud with the audience her incredible performance technique. I know nothing about music, but I'm reasonably certain they do.

Purity McCall (love the name, love the writing): I didn't say 'no technique', far from it, I said 'dodgy'. And I wasn't there, so I'm very happy to concede that the extraordinary Vesa may have pulled it off, and delighted to read about it. It's just that I've seen performances from her which scared me in the wrong way - ie the Sesto at the Royal Opera, an experience I wouldn't want to repeat.

Point taken Morgana, I suspect we are in violent agreement. As someone so amusingly put it on Twitter this morning; she's the Marmite of opera singers. I suppose I am just spoiler, or old, or more likely both, but I have had enough good technique to last a lifetime. I want someone to shiver what little is left of my timbers. VK does that everytime, but i concede not always in a good way... But my god when she's good (as she most certainly was on Saturday) she's awfully good. Someone like Garanca could song the arias with better technqiue I guess, but she could never sing the rolew better.. Given that as Igor (Igor... Igor?...I had a stableboy of that name once, genius with the saddle soap he was... happy days) pointed out she was sashaying around the place in an evening harem pants jumpsuit and heels was a miracle she pulled off the testosterone piled role so well.

Gosh that lunchtime glass of Merlot has gone shtraight to my shpelling...

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