makes extraordinary vocal and acting demands, which the English National Opera brilliantly fulfils in a curious combination of baroque music and post-modern production styles. Handel's intensely emotional arias and the surreal staging combine their energies with powerful impact, aided by some imaginative choreography and a remarkable English singing translation of the Italian text. The subject is the painfully complex love entanglements of five characters: pure idealism and raging jealousy, nefarious plots and deceptions, unscrupulous exploitation, and opportunism, hopelessness mounting to the brink of insanity. The plot, as often happens in baroque opera, is riddled with improbabilities, exaggerations, and coincidence, but they matter not at all. It is essentially no more than a framework on which Handel mounts music of tender passion, rage, delirious joy, hope, resignation--nearly three hours of unrestrained emotional intensity and vocal brilliance.
Ann Murray and Joan Rodgers are appealing as the young lovers Ariodante and Ginevra, but the show is nearly stolen by countertenor Christopher Robson as the villainous Polinesso, who convinces Ariodante that Ginevra has been unfaithful. Lesley Garrett performs brilliantly as Polinesso's dupe and accomplice, Dalinda, and Ivor Bolton conducts with a fine sense of baroque style. --Joe McLellan, Amazon.com