William Christie presents Le Jardin des Voix

Purcell
The Indian Queen (excerpts)
Mazzochi
La catena d’Adone (excerpts)
Rossi
Un peccator pentito – Spargete, sospiri
Lambert
Que d’amants séparés languissent nuit et jour
Vos mépris chaque jour
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Vénus et Adonis (excerpts)
Rameau
Pigmalion air
Fatal Amour, cruel vaincqueur
André Campra
Enée et Didon (excerpts)
Handel
Radamisto (excerpts)
Amadigi di Gaula (excerpts)
Mozart
Ascania in Alba (excerpts)
Grétry
Zémire et Azor
Philidor
Tom Jones (excerprts)

Soloists of Le Jardin des Voix 2005:

Amel Brahim-Djelloul (soprano)
Claire Debono (soprano)
Judith van Wanroij (soprano)
Xavier Sabata (counter-tenor)
Andrei Tortise (baritone)
André Morsch (baritone)
Konstantin Wolff (bass-baritone)

Les Arts Florissants
William Christie


Reviewed by: Erwin Hösi

Reviewed: 8 March, 2005
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Among the many things William Christie has always been renowned for is his knack for talent spotting – so many of his productions contain at least one unknown singer who is a real discovery. To turn this into a systematic enterprise, in 2001 Les Arts Florissants launched “Le Jardin des Voix”, which includes a two-week academy for the singers and a tour through some of the world’s most important concert halls. Even if the singers should not to remain faithful to the Baroque period (like some of the participants of the 2002 tour), having been part of the project will stand out on CVs.

With repertoire ranging from Italian Madrigals to English, French and German opera, this year’s presentation was also an exhaustive presentation of the musical genres most associated with William Christie. Within this broad context, Christie avoided repertoire that overly stresses virtuosity in favour of challenging the singers’ expressive talents.

And talents there were indeed. Countertenor Xavier Sabata’s affective, highly charged performance of “Minaccimi, non ho timor” and an aria from Handel’s “Amadigi di Gaula” was perhaps the most enchanting of the evening’s many pleasures. But it was not just his mellifluous voice that made him stand out from the still very impressive rest: his acting showed a real talent for comedy (witness the bearded mock-wife in the wedding scene from “The Indian Queen” or his part in the quartet of drunks from Philidor’s “Tom Jones”). The rest of the male singers also convinced, not only through the beauty of their voices but by their sensitivity to the various contents of the ever-changing scenario.

The sopranos were also charming. Christie’s (apparent) favourite Anna Debono was particularly fine in the first French piece of the evening, Michel Lambert’s “Que d’amants séparés languissent nuit et jour”; her singing could well make its way onto one of Christie’s recordings of this repertoire. No less impressive were Judith van Wanroij and Amel Brahim-Djelloul. The latter’s high and light voice turned out to be a more than adequate cast for a Mozart aria, while the former’s sombre and emotional performance of a Charpentier lament was very moving indeed.

Supported by a brilliant orchestra – especially the very committed woodwinds – and a conductor at his obvious (and remarkably youthful) best, the whole concert was a true ray of sunshine. The atmosphere of a talent audition, with the non-performing singers casually sitting at the back of the stage, some funny staging elements like singers storming the rostrum, and not least the dense succession of musical highlights from a complete conducting career added up to a lasting rapture.

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