When Handel Meets Philip Glass

10.01.18
Les Violons du Roy , Anthony Roth Costanzo
Le Devoir

For his first concert as Music Director of Les Violons du Roy and his first appearance at Maison symphonique, Jonathan Cohen showed he can share the stage, letting his soloist Anthony Roth Costanzo step into the spotlight and open the concert not with an orchestral piece-as is customary, even at OSM's "pop" concerts-but with a soaring rendition of Handel's aria, "Stille amare."

The concert program was based on the CD recorded in Quebec City in 2017 and released on Decca Gold on September 21, with one exception: the CD alternates between the Handel and Glass arias, but due to the practical constraints of the orchestral arrangement and direction (Cohen led Handel by performing the continuo on harpsichord), the concert was divided into two parts, one for each composer.

The Handel portion was bookended by two musical gems: the intense "Stille amare" from Tolomeo-about the "bitter drops" of poison that Tolomeo, son of Cleopatra, ingests at the end of the opera-and the virtuosic "Vivi, Tiranno" (live, tyrant!), Bertarido's aria from Rodelinda. Both roles were written for celebrated castrato Senesino, as was the role of Guido in Flavio, whose aria "Rompo i lacci" Roth Costanzo also sang, cutting out the recitative to no ill effect.

In many recordings and live performances, these roles are often performed by fuller female voices-to give you an example, Marie-Nicole Lemieux played Bertarido in the 2017 revival of Rodelinda in Paris! Nevertheless, Anthony Roth Costanzo delivered a moving performance as Tolomeo and his portrayal of Bertarido was extremely refreshing.  The countertenor's fresh takes and enthusiasm came through even in his warm stage banter, delivered in French. He seemed very sincere and looser than the Roth Costanzo audiences encountered at the 2012 music competition.

 Read the full review here (translation)