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03 September 2015


16th April 2015
Conservatorium Theatre
By G F Handel
Brisbane Baroque Festival
Brisbane Baroque, in collaboration with the Göttingen International Handel Festival, presents an opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a text adapted from Apostolo Zeno’s Faramondo

Handel composed forty-nine works for the opera stage before turning his attention to the oratorio form. Faramondo was his thirty-ninth. Premiered at the King’s Theatre, London, on January 3, 1738 with the great castrato Caffarelli in the title role, it was given eight performances and was not revived until 1976. More recently, this late masterpiece has received a memorable concert performance in Geneva in 2009, recorded for CD, and a fully staged production in Gottingen in 2014. It is this acclaimed production that comes to Brisbane.  Re-staged by Glasgow-born, Australian trained director Paul Curran, it will form the centrepiece of the first-ever Brisbane Baroque festival. The dazzling young international cast includes singers from Ireland, the Ukraine, the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Perhaps it’s the plot (which as opera plots go is among the most complicated - even more complex than that of Verdi’s Il Trovatore) that kept Handel’s late masterpiece out of the operatic repertoire for almost three hundred years. But recent revivals have clearly shown the composer at his inventive best, as he poured out a cascade of his most explosive and expressive arias. Ignoring the historic setting, director Paul Curran has given the feud between two sixteenth century families a modern Mafioso twist. Think Scorsese, de Niro and Pacino.

At the time I wrote:-
Faramondo -You have one last opportunity to see this thrilling, ravishing and musical gem on Saturday night. Last night I had the pleasure of being totally enveloped in three hours and forty five minutes of sublime singing in Handel's newly revived opera. I am a little familiar with the piece as I have the relatively recent recording with Max Emanuel Cencic in the title role and including Philippe Jarousky and Xavier Sabata. Last night Faramondo was sung so amazingly by Jennifer Rivera. The whole cast were just brilliant, but I have a deep love of the countertenor voice and was knocked out by the vocal agility, drama and humour of Christopher Lowrey's alto as Gernando and the extreme delicacy and beauty of Tai Oney's pure soprano countertenor voice as Adolfo. 
Christopher returned to Australia to sing in Sydney with Pinchgut Opera a couple of months later.The dramatic power and vibrant tone of youngish Melbourne baritone Jeremy Kleeman was so stunning. Jeremy is now a finalist in the Australian Singing Competition this year. I would love to praise them all but these three singers are fb friends and I treasure the idea that I can follow them as their careers travel. It was also such a pleasure that I could watch another local friend Michael Nunn acting his heart out as a variety of non singing characters. 
What a fine a daunting sound there was from the Orchestra of the Antipodes and lead violin and another friend Brendan Joyce who is a force of nature playing in this orchestra and also lead of The Camerata of St. John'sand will also be playing as lead with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and The Australian String Quartet this year. The friends I went with have been on the phone already today to continue rejoicing in what happened last night. A truly memorable performance and another highlight of the Brisbane Baroque festival which has got off to a start in such spectacular fashion. I was so excited last night that after the show I immediately fronted up to the festival organiser Leo Schofield AM to grab his hand and thank and congratulate him for bringing this here and also for giving me the opportunity to hear and meet my favourite singer in the world Max Emanuel Cencic on Sunday evening.
The Brisbane Baroque production of Faramondo, which played just four performances in Brisbane’s small Conservatorium Theatre won five Helpmann Awards including one for friend Christopher Lowrey and also Best Opera.
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