New York Classical Review
by Eric C. Simpson
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The renaissance of baroque opera in America shows no signs of slowing down: Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon saw a sold-out performance of a four-hour Handel opera, in which Harry Bicket’s English Concert and Joyce DiDonato gave a performance so stunning it was liable to make even the most jaded of early-music skeptics take note …

There was little question as to Sunday’s star—DiDonato gave a sensational performance of the title role, one that ranks right alongside her greatest triumphs on the Met stage. Her many bel canto roles have shown off her splendid, rippling coloratura time and again, an asset that was thrown into only starker relief by Handel’s florid writing. She handled even the most treacherous runs with ease, making a true tour de force out of the demanding aria “Con l’ali di costanza.” A cool, flowing sound and soft glow come naturally to her, and yet she can inject passionate fire seemingly with the flip of a switch.

Her most stunning moments came not when she was flashing that splendid coloratura technique, but in her character’s most intimate thoughts. Act II’s “Scherza infida,” a quiet expression of anguish at Ginevra’s apparent infidelity, was spellbinding, as DiDonato showed a softer luster to her tone, contrasting with the role’s dominant direct, forward fire. She allowed herself for a bar or two to drop to a pianissimo in a shattering instant of vulnerability. Bicket and the ensemble were right with her, their sound suddenly as delicate as lace under her whispered phrases.