Rapturous, languorous beauty: Lully’s Armide, Grimeborn

If you fancy being entertained like a French king, head to Grimeborn for Lully’s Armide. Lully’s artistic monopoly over French opera lasted well beyond his death (thanks to some dastardly patenting, as the excellent programme notes explain): he took full advantage of his pre-eminent position musically, as well as financially, creating opera for Louis XIV of rapturous,…

Small palette, big picture: Handel’s Acis and Galatea in Cambridge

Handel’s “little opera” Acis and Galatea suffers from something of an identity crisis: it exists in three versions, and has also been put forward as a candidate for at least three genres: masque, opera or serenata. It is certainly an unusual piece: small, with a fast-paced but surprisingly simple plot taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and voiced by the…

A dusty curio: Handel’s Berenice, regina d’Egitto

One of the main reasons Berenice, regina d’Egitto is performed so rarely is its notable lack of dramatic punch. Taut and skilful playing from La Nuova Musica, conducted from the harpsichord with joyful dynamism by David Bates, and some excellent singing, made for an evening of gorgeous music, if not dramatic excitement, at the Church…

Fool for love: Handel’s Orlando at the Barbican

Some operas are just begging for a strapline: and if Orlando had one, it would surely be “Dorinda’s Dreadful Day”. First, Dorinda is plagued by doubts that the handsome African prince Medoro truly loves her (which he doesn’t), but optimistically decides to give him the benefit of the doubt, because she loves him. Then she’s informed…