Thursday, April 9

BREMF – OVID AND HANDEL – The BREMF Singers & Players, John Hancorn (director)

- November 9, 2019

The scope of BREMF early music is very wide. Friday was 12th century with Hildegard and today’s concert was Handel, 18th century high Baroque. We heard two tragic tales from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, the rarely performed ‘Apollo e Dafne’ and a carefully filleted version of ‘Semele’. The quality is always so high, but with Alison Bury leading The BREMF Players that was never in question. The continuo, which binds the music together, was in the very secure hands of BREMF champions George Ross (cello) and Claire Williams (harpsichord).

Bass-baritone John Lee made a splendid Apollo, singing with a majestic glint of defiance in his eyes against an unintended chorus of fireworks. Elspeth Piggott (soprano) managed to remain impassive as the unresponsive Daphne although the bangs and booms outside continued. This strange percussion didn’t spoil the performances and tragic Daphne sang her way to becoming a laurel tree.

Semele has an equally sad fate, being blasted by Jove’s glorious thunderbolt. She, however, is more spirited than Daphne, and Lucinda Cox (soprano) flirted boldly with Jove, tenor Sebastian Maclaine. They had more opportunity to act with their roles. It was Bethany Horak-Hallett (mezzo-soprano) who had to remain stony-faced as Juno, Jove’s embittered consort. With all these soloists, as you would expect, the expression came mainly through their excellent singing. The action in Semele was punctuated by the highly responsive BREMF Singers, who in true oratorio style had the last word.

St Martin’s Church,
9 November 2019
Rating: ★★★★☆
Andrew Connal

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