Thursday 29 August 2013

Handel Furioso

Arcola Theatre, London


Music by George Frideric Handel
Directed by Max Hoehn

Robyn Allegra Parton and Anna Starushkevych

Currently playing in London’s Dalston is one of the finest set of performances to be found on London's fringe. As part of the Arcola’s "Grimeborn Festival" the Isle of Noise are performing their Handel Furioso, a love story that they have created, fused from a selection of George Frideric Handel's duets, arias and orchestral works.

Isle of Noise is a deceptively modest title for this company, a name that suggests cacophony rather than the sublime harmonies that await. A cast of two, supported by the 8 piece Sounds Baroque Ensemble, perform, in one act, a 75 minute series of 16 separate pieces. Their story is simple, introducing us to a young boy and girl and following them through courtship, matrimony, an estranged separation and finally and enchantingly, a reconciliation in their old age before the boy (now elderly and grey-haired) dies in the (now old) woman's arms.

Mezzo-soprano Anna Starushkevych plays the Boy, whilst Robyn Allegra Parton is the soprano Girl. As would be expected the staging is modest, but English surtitles are thoughtfully projected onto a moon suspended over the stage.

The singing is exquisite. My knowledge fails me in offering a structured operatic critique of these women's talents, so all I can report is that their voices are close to perfection, with both range and faultless tone deployed in a moving combination of strength and sensitivity.  Their acting is similarly excellent, as the love story unfolds and their performances and appearances age in line with their characters.

Julian Perkins conducts from the harpsichord and his ensemble, complete with William Carter on theorbo (a remarkably incongruous and oversized 16th century lute), provide an accompaniment that exceeds one's expectations for an evening of Handel.

Only in London until the weekend and then followed by a short tour, these ten talented and disciplined performers provide a rare glimpse of excellence. Their's is an eclectic take on Handel's work and if the era or the genre appeal, then this show should not be missed.

Runs until August 31st then on tour

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