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Handel: Deidamia / Matthews, Cangemi, Pasichnyk, Bolton, Concerto Koln

Handel / Bolton / Schaafsma
Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1088  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Silvia Tro SantafeVeronica CangemiSally MatthewsOlga Pasichnyk,   ... 
Conductor:  Ivor Bolton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Cologne
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 3 Hours 28 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DNO presents a new production of Händel's last Italian opera, Deidamia, staged by the American David Alden. No known literary source has been linked directly to this opera, which is set at the time of the Trojan War. After an oracle has predicted the death of Achilles at Troy, Achilles disguises himself as a woman and takes refuge at the court of Lycomedes, whose daughter Deidamia falls in love with the young Greek. Amorous developments and tricks of disguise expose the truth and Achilles is forced to take his place at the side of his countrymen in the battle against the Trojans. Comedy and tragedy are bedfellows in this opera, and the title role in particular covers the entire expressive spectrum, from flirtatious love song to Read more heartfelt lament.

George Frideric Handel DEIDAMIA

Deidamia – Sally Matthews
Nerea – Veronica Cangemi
Achille – Olga Pasichnyk
Ulisse – Silvia Tro Santafé
Fenice – Andrew Foster-Williams
Licomede – Umberto Chiummo
Nestore – Jan-Willem Schaafsma

Concerto Köln
Ivor Bolton, conductor

David Alden, stage director

Recorded live at the De Nederlandse Opera, March and April 2012

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German
Running time: 208 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

R E V I E W: 3661720.az_HANDEL_Deidamia_Ivor_Bolton.html

HANDEL Deidamia Ivor Bolton, cond; Sally Matthews (Deidamia); Veronica Cangemi (Nerea); Olga Pasichnyk (Achille); Silvia Tro Santafé (Ulisse); Andrew Foster-Williams (Fenice); Umberto Chiummo (Licomede); Jan-Willem Schaafsma (Nestore); Concerto Köln (period instruments) OPUS ARTE 1088 (DVD: 228:00)

By the time that Deidamia was composed in 1740, George Frederick Handel had already suffered the misfortune of having his entire Italian opera enterprise, for which he had been famed and which had earned him a fair amount of money, collapse in the wake of The Beggars Opera and its successors. The first performance on January 10, 1741, at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in London was, to put it mildly, received poorly, and it was withdrawn after only three performances. The English audiences no longer wanted to hear about the opera seria gods and heroes, and there is nothing more entertaining than a simple plot with obvious situations and simple characters, none of which this piece has. In short, perhaps he wanted just one more stab at his former glory, or maybe librettist Paolo Antonio Polli convinced him that this would be work to revive the fortunes of opera seria in Italian. Whatever the case, the lack of success convinced the composer that the genre was dead as a doornail, and he then moved on to the less expensive (and English) oratorio.

Reviewing the plot, it is not really difficult to see why no one really cared back then. The situation, known from Homer’s Iliad, is that Achilles is hiding out in Scyros among the maidens, a plot by his mother to avoid an oracle (and we all know how this sort of thing turns out). Under the name of Pirra, she, er, he continually goes against the stereotype by preferring hunting to maidenly games, much to the chagrin of Deidamia, the daughter of King Lycomedes of Scyros, who has fallen in love with him and fears for his discovery. Meanwhile, her confident Nerea warns of the approach of several Greeks, including Odysseus, who is also in disguise. Lycomedes invites all and sundry to a hunt, perhaps not realizing in his senility that Achilles’s true self will be revealed. In the meantime, the Amazon Phoenix has fallen in love with Nerea, and during the hunt all are amazed that Pirra, now portrayed as an Amazon, has killed the quarry. Odysseus, under the name of Antilochus, pays court to her, ahem, him, and Deidamia feels she has been betrayed, while Phoenix is now convinced that Pirra is none other than the disguised Achilles (and one wonders what gave her that idea). Well, to make a long story short, the Homeric ruse of Odysseus hauling in a pile of weapons and some girlish things reveals the disguise. At the end, Deidamia turns to Antilochus, only to find that her Plan B is none other than a Greek hero, so her best choice is to marry Achilles quickly and for him to leave her forever to die at Troy.

As opera seria plots go, it is not as hoary as some, in that the characters are more or less drawn from the epic. The twists and turns, however, are typical and who is getting angry at whom is never easy to follow. In this DVD, taken from a Netherlands Opera production from March 2012, the modern setting makes the thing seem even more odd. It opens with Lycomedes sitting on a lighthouse shaped like a column, and the Greeks arrive in a submarine (probably a Kursk class, but I digress). The remainder is set amid seaside beach boulders and resorts replete with stainless railings, chilled champagne buckets, and comfy chairs. The hunting scene has a variety of odd weapons, including an oversized slingshot, and the costumes are an eccentric mix of modern dress, ball gowns, togas, and red and black “camouflage” uniforms with crested helmets. All of this is played against a single cumulus cloud in a blue sky, presumably the Aegean location. I suppose it is no better or worse than most “updates,” but for a baroque opera it lacks a certain class or gravitas.

The music is wonderfully composed, with the requisite da capo arias, which Handel orchestrated with considerable sensitivity. The playing by the Concerto Köln is accurate and finely drawn, and both Sally Matthews and Olga Pasichnyk, the latter who has a nice rich voice, complement each other, as does the rather powerful soprano of Silvia Santafé’s Ulisse/Odysseus. Umberto Chiummo is far more of a bass presence, more Polyphemus than the hapless Licomede. In short, the musical portions are just fine, which should make enduring the odd sets possible. For those wanting a libretto, however, none is provided, but of course there are subtitles in four languages. So, the bottom line is this: There probably won’t be another DVD of Deidamia in the future, so for the visual portions one must put up with the dramaturgical mishmash. The musical background, however, is good enough so that one can (and maybe should) close one’s eyes to savor the final effort by an iconic composer in a genre in which he excelled.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Deidamia, HWV 42 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Silvia Tro Santafe (Mezzo Soprano), Veronica Cangemi (Soprano), Sally Matthews (Soprano),
Olga Pasichnyk (Soprano), Andrew Foster-Williams (Bass Baritone), Umberto Chiummo (Bass),
Jan-Willem Schaafsma (Tenor)
Conductor:  Ivor Bolton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Cologne
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 

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