Hercules: George Frideric Handel (1745)

Alice Coote

★★★

(The English Concert directed by Harry Bicket at the Barbican, 4 March 2015)

Six months into my Baroque voyage of discovery, it’ll soon be time to jump in at the deep end for the London Handel Festival. From fully-staged operas to concerts, solo recitals and pasticci, the next month will offer a veritable banquet of Handel in all his forms. Before the Festival proper gets underway, we had an aperitif to enjoy: something of an oddity.

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L’Incoronazione di Poppea: Claudio Monteverdi (1643)

Sarah Connolly

(Barbican, Academy of Ancient Music with Robert Howarth, 4 October 2014)

★★★★

When a friend asked if I wanted to see Monteverdi’s Poppea at the Barbican on Saturday, I said yes immediately. Poppea is a landmark in the history of opera: the first to weave a story around historical characters rather than myths or saints. I’ve only seen one production so far: the version directed by William Christie, with Philippe Jaroussky as Nerone, Danielle de Niese as Poppea and Max Cencic as Ottone. I haven’t written about it yet because I’ve been biding my time until I felt I had a better understanding of it; and this semi-staged version at the Barbican was the perfect way to put the Jaroussky version into context. Its abiding legacy will be a couple of extremely strong performances which I can use as a benchmark in the future.

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