“Ariodante on Carnegie Hall’s main stage on April 30featured a soaring, energized Joyce DiDonato and a uniformly strong cast under Harry Bicket’s expert direction. Listening to the thunderous ovations during and after the opera, one hoped that the managements of New York’s two leading opera companies would see from the wild success of Bicket’s local appearances with his English Concert that Handel has not only superb exponents these days but a highly motivated public who will travel and buy seats to hear his works.
The English Concert is just terrific—a fleet and accurate Baroque ensemble fully responsive here to the vocalism they supported. Bicket led from the harpsichord, which he played with great conviction. All the continuo players performed admirably; but one leaves Ariodante remembering the bassoon, and Alberto Grazzi handled his portion of the stop-time miracle of “Scherza infida” as deftly and expressively as did DiDonato, who blended bitterly enunciated consonants with seemingly endless breath support and legato ease. The mezzo sounded in peak form from her first mellow arioso, “Qui d’amor,” and gave a generous, deeply chiseled and resonantly projected reading of one of her great assumptions. For such heartfelt artistry and beauty of tone in such technically and psychologically remarkable music, what could one offer but grateful smiles (with a healthy admixture of tears)?”