As a great admirer of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, I thought I should give his earlier serenata a chance live at the theatre. It was a busy day and unfortunately I was not in the right mood for it. It is not my favorite work of Handel’s Italian period – and the numbers that I like happened to be “recycled” in more consistent works such as Agrippina or Rinaldo. In any case, this disclaimer is important – maybe in more favourable circumstances I would have enjoyed the performance as much as everybody else in the audience did – applause was so generous that the musicians decided to reprise the last number.
I usually enjoy René Jacobs’s Handel, but I tend to find that his Mozart lacks sensuousness. If I had to define my problem about today’s all-right theatrical performance it would be its lack of sensuousness. The Akademie für alte Musik Berlin played it brilliantly, but the sound was far from warm and appealing. And the extremely fast tempi made the proceedings more formidable than beautiful. Although the work has no overture, if I am not mistaken, Jacobs played the overture of Handel’s Agrippina, a solution already tried before because the tonality and the scoring are compatible with the rest of the work.
Sunhae Im has a lovely personality and technical assurance and the right bell-toned soprano for Aci, but the tonal palette is very restricted and sometimes the tonal quality is sometimes similar to a boy soprano’s. Vivica Genaux did not have many opportunities to display her battle-horse amazingly fast divisions. Some arias were speeded up to make do, but the result made the non-coloratura passages uninteresting. The lovely Galatea ideally requires a more feminine and beguiling tonal quality even in such a low tessitura. When one compares these singers to Sandrine Piau and Sara Mingardo in Emmanuelle Haïm’s studio recording, the lack of sexiness and warmth this evening is impossible to over look. As for Marcos Fink, although he has the low notes, I don’t believe he is the basso profondo Jacobs usually tries to make him be. He took some time to warm and was caught short once or twice during Sibilar l’angui d’Aletto. To my ears, his voice is also too noble for this role, but he certainly dispatched the fioriture with aplomb.