WORKS: Dido and Aeneas
PERFORMER: Simone Kermes, Deborah York, Dimitris Tiliakos, Margarita Mezentseva, Sofia Fomina, Oleg Ryabets, Yana Mamonova, Elena Kondratova, Valeria Safonova, Alexandre Zverev; The New Siberian Singers; MusicAeterna/
CATALOGUE NO: 140
A Novosibirsk Dido. Now there’s a talking point! Purcell certainly travels hopefully in Teodor Currentzis’s relentlessly inquisitive reading. How he ‘arrives’ is more problematic. And so soon after Sarah Connolly’s disc, the comparisons are telling.
Connolly is a mezzo in the footsteps of Janet Baker; Currentzis has chosen a soprano for the queenly lead and Simone Kermes inevitably brings a different colouring to the role; younger, ardent, lighter, but at times perhaps, Dido-lite. There’s also less of a differentiation between the Queen and Belinda (appealingly sung by Deborah York).
The overture proves prophetic. Its opening is portentous but at one point nearly comes adrift whilst the fast section goes off like a firecracker, viscerally exciting but belligerently accented.
As it turns out, MusicAeterna’s playing is invigorating though occasionally insecure, and whilst the ritornello after ‘Fear no danger’ is great fun, infused with a lively Eastern European folk feel, the introduction to Dido’s ‘Your counsel’ sounds like John Tavener!
And if Currentzis spurs his instrumentalists into an orgy of exaggerated accents, dynamics and over-mannered phrasing, what he does with the chorus is at times – and we’re not talking about the witches – plain grotesque.
Apropos the witches, Ryabets’s Sorceress sounds like a Mother Abbess with some querulous acolytes! A ‘safer’ bet is the Connolly disc, bristling with fresh insights and period flair; but nearly half a century on, and purely on account of Baker’s peerless portrayal, there is still ‘nothing like a Dame’! Paul Riley