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Philippe Jaroussky, Kresimir Spicer, Katherine Watson, Stephanie d’Oustrac, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie
Erato 9029588990 (2DVD)
You have to admit, Handel knew how to craft a drama equal with the best at HBO. Theodora is a masterpiece, and with the drama focussed on the relationships between the central four characters, superbly sung, this is a story that resonates easily with modern audiences. With unity in direction, concept and lighting, this is a fantastic production.
Although he’s top billing, Philippe Jaroussky (Didyme) is the weakest member of this ensemble of singing actors. Vocally, he is stunning, but a stronger presence on stage would have made more of the juxtaposition between the feminine quality of his vocal tone and the traditional heroism of his character. The soldier’s physicality is a little uncomfortable, and in stark contrast to his masculine costuming. However, Kresimir Spicer (Septime) is so astonishingly good that the comparison is a little unfair. He sails through the notorious Dread the Fruits of Christian Folly, with gravity defying coloratura while Descend, Kind Pity reveals his astonishing legato.
The female cast is just as strong. Katherine Watson (Theodora) is youthful and sweet, balancing the steel and sweetness of the martyr. Her Irene is the captivating Stephanie d’Oustrac, whose extraordinary presence translates effortlessly to screen. William Christie paces superbly in a fantastic work from a composer who knew his strengths.