Opera Review: Baroque opera makes stunning debut at the Civic Theatre

    Ariodante,”” the obscure opera by Handel that has always peered out from the shadow of the venerated “”The Messiah,”” now finds its place in the sun with the San Diego Opera.

    Courtesy of San Diego Opera

    With the ebb of baroque-style operas these days, Handel seems to be creeping back on the scene, and with his work follows a surprisingly enthusiastic patronage.

    This season’s performance proves to be excellent with an emphatic orchestra with talented director John Copely, conductor Kenneth Montgomery and an astounding voice cast.

    Ariodante, once a castrato role (a part played by a castrated male singer), is now a “”trouser role”” played by a woman, and makes its appearance with mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux.

    Genaux steals the show with her impressive octave range, breath control and quick changes in voice.

    Though slumped in the wake of Genaux’s performance, the rare countertenor David Walker makes his debut playing the villainous Polinesso.

    In the background of these talented singers is a distracting and puzzling surrealist/post-modernist set design. The brilliant and vivid 18th century-style costumes that adorn each singer do not mesh well with this experimental set design. Traditionalism and surrealism hardly ever go well together, and this production is certainly not an exception to the rule.

    The arioso’s passages, ensembles and duets all absorb each listener of the audience.

    With the San Diego Opera now giving student discounts on tickets, “”Ariodante”” is a must-see opera for UCSD students.

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