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Handel – Tamerlano

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
OA 1006 D

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Tamerlano
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Monica Bacelli, Ingela Bohlin, Sara Mingardo, Jennifer Holloway, Luigi de Donato; Orchestra of the Teatro Real/Paul McCreesh; dir. Graham Vick (Madrid, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1006 D (NTSC system; 5.1 dts; 16:9 anamorphic)

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The grandly tragic figure of the enslaved Turkish sultan Bajazet in Handel’s 1724 opera is a recent departure for Plácido Domingo, and one that could be supposed to lie outside his comfort zone. So it says much for his artistry and intelligence that he makes such a significant success of it in this filming of Graham Vick’s 2008 Madrid production.

Centring on a battle of wills between the proud Bajazet and his upstart Mongol conqueror Tamerlano, with Bajazet’s daughter Asteria in the middle, the opera is one of Handel’s greatest, reaching a powerful climax in Bajazet’s suicide scene.

Here Domingo, even with his now diminished vocal resources, puts some of his Baroque specialist colleagues to shame with the psychological penetration of his performance.

It may partly be the fault of Vick’s production, in which Ron Howell’s choreography sometimes registers as irritatingly intrusive, that by Domingo’s side Monica Bacelli’s Tamerlano comes over as a flouncy show-off rather than a serious opponent.

Ingela Bohlin is on the small side, vocally, for Asteria, and Jennifer Holloway has a tendency to sing beneath the note as the unwanted princess Irene. Sara Mingardo’s Andronico is presentable.

]In Richard Hudson’s generally handsome and relatively spare semi-abstract designs the show looks good, though in swerving from serious attention to the drama to pure decoration it undervalues the piece.

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Paul McCreesh gets decent playing from the non-period Madrid musicians, though his firm but flexible approach occasionally fails to motivate the score. This is Domingo’s evening. George Hall