Handel’s Orlando

Harry Bicket and The English Concert perform

Handel’s Orlando

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Opera highlights

Friday 26th February, 2016

Town Hall

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Iestyn Davies Orlando
Erin Morley Angelica
Carolyn Sampson Dorinda
Sasha Cooke Medoro
Kyle Ketelsen Zoroastro

Handel Orlando 165’

Torn between love and glory, the knight Orlando gives way to madness – and rampages through a world of lovers, sorcerers and all-powerful spirits.Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando is a true extravaganza, performed tonight by Harry Bicket and The English Concert – plus Carolyn Sampson, and Iestyn Davies in the title role.

The proposed finish time for this concert is 9.50pm
(due to the long duration there are two intervals of 20 minutes and 15 minutes)

Please note: the date of this event has now changed
This concert will now take place on Friday 26 February 2016. Existing bookers will be contacted in due course with new details and tickets, should they not be able to attend the new date they will be entitled to a refund. > Posted 17/6/15


Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times (££):

Click here for full review (££)

…     “Iestyn Davies took the title role with ease and effortless style and his slow Sleep Aria, accompanied by two dusky violas, theorbo and cello, was spellbindingly beautiful. Erin Morley’s velvety soprano and lively expressions made her a warm, complex Queen Angelica, adored by Orlando but in love with Medoro, a role that needs the richness and depth given by mezzo Sasha Cooke. As the powerful magician Zoroastro, Kyle Ketelsen’s burnished bass-baritone was the ideal foundation for this group of well-contrasted voices.

At the emotional heart of this performance was the unlucky-in-love shepherdess Dorinda, sung with fresh, sweet lightness by Carolyn Sampson. Her Act II Nightingale Song, with solo violin as songbird, was a standout moment, only to be topped by her dazzling Amor è qual vento in Act III, in which she sings of the anguish of love.”



Handel’s Theodora

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Thursday 6th February, 6:30pm

Town Hall

The English Concert

Harry Bicket conductor

Rosemary Joshua Theodora

Sarah Connolly Irene

Tim Mead Didymus

Kurt Streit Septimus

Neal Davies Valens

Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street, New York

Handel Theodora 160’

This concert has a running time of c 3 1⁄4 hours with two intervals of 20 and 15 minutes.

Handel rated Theodora more highly than the Messiah, and some say that this heartfelt tragedy of ancient Rome was his favourite of all his oratorios. For Harry Bicket and The English Concert it’s a neglected masterpiece, and with a quality cast that includes Sarah Connolly and Rosemary Joshua plus a fine American chamber choir, this should be a compelling sequel to last season’s critically-acclaimed performance of Radamisto.

Sung in English with English surtitles.




Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “But before any of these bracing leads, a hugely well-deserved mention for the chorus,  the American-based Choir of Trinity Wall Street (this Theodora has already toured the States from West Coast to East, winding up in New York at the Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall. See Stan Metzger’s review ).

One noticed something quite remarkable about their early choruses: a phenomenal attentiveness, which made their rhythmic sense as alive as anything in the performance; and a harmonising of timbre (across girls and men but in fact embracing both), which so far from restricting, only underwrote their unanimity of delivery. Then later, brilliant characterisation in the almost clodhopping descending patterns of the lusty Roman Venus- (and Flora-) worshippers – while swapping demeanour effortlessly for the serene Christian choir conclusion – and a capacity for small bits of coloratura, or virtual coloratura, than sometimes capped even the principals.     […]

[…]  No surprise that Sarah Connolly was absolutely wonderful in the soubrette role of Irene – but for a reason. Her first aria, and indeed much of her input, was sung so peaceably and serenely.  ‘As with my steps the morn’ grew from pianissimo to piano, and her reprise was more like quadruple and triple piano. The effect was utterly mesmerising. Connolly, uniquely, has the artistry to effect portamento (‘bane of virtue’), a device she never overuses but which brings maximum affect when she does. Every time she sang was a masterclass; ‘Thou art the light, the life, the way’ was quite sensational; her start to Act III is as moving as Britten’s Lucretia.      […]

[…] But the nicest surprise of all lay in another singer. This was the countertenor Tim Mead, as Theodora’s lover and fellow-Christian Didymus, who in Act 3 pays, like her, with his life. I heard Mead some years back and was underwhelmed: a diffident voice and thin stage presence. Now  he dominates, the sound is forceful, confident, often thrilling – the presence attractive and engaging. The tone and timbre are immensely alluring. There is a precision that goes with the assurance. His coloratura was second to none. ‘To thee, thou glorious son of worth’, where he is matched in duet by Theodora as they both brace for the worst, is lovely enough: ‘Streams of pleasure’, the Act 3 equivalent, even more so. But ‘Kind heaven, if virtue be thy care’ at the end of Act I, with attractively skedaddling violins, was an aria of breathtaking beauty, the clarity and precision at this moment when he determined, if necessary, to die matched by some delightful light decoration at the da capo: pure enchantment; Didymus’s big Act 2 aria, ‘Deeds of kindness to display’, was simply out of this world.”



Review by BH /”Admin” Lark Reviews:

Click here for full review

“Cast from some of the finest Handelians available and given the vigour of Harry Bicket’s conducting, this presentation could not fail; and so it proved.

Rosemary Joshua was as limpid a heroine as one could wish, and her Didymus, Tim Mead, a florid counter-tenor who brought genuine emotion to his singing. Sarah Connolly has some of Handel’s most moving music for Irene’s passionate support and consolation, and matched the more rugged approach of Kurt Streit’s Septimus.

Jonathan Best was a late replacement as Valens and seemed a little uncomfortable at first, but soon settled. The choir of Trinity Wall Street were new to me in terms of live performance and brought bounce and enthusiasm in addition to splendid articulation.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “This Theodora, with Harry Bicket directing The English Concert from the keyboard, was ardent, stylish and eloquently performed – given the limitations of the material.

In the title role Rosemary Joshua’s sweet-toned lyric soprano was perfect for the spotless Christian virgin’s prayer Angels ever bright and fair, and was well complemented by Sarah Connolly’s rich well-focused mezzo-soprano as her friend Irene.

Handel wrote the role of Theodora’s lover the Roman soldier Didymus, a closet Christian convert, for a castrato and brilliantly exploited the voice’s ethereal qualities.

Countertenor Tim Mead floated some gorgeous high notes, gracefully caressing the words. Kurt Streit almost made the paper-thin Septimius into a credible character, vehemently railing against the “Dread fruits of Christian folly”.

Jonathan Best (a late replacement for indisposed Neal Davies) was gruff but reliable as Valens. The Choir of Trinity Wall Street was in fine voice, splendid both as bloodthirsty lustful pagans and pious Christians.”

Handel’s Radamisto

Handel’s Radamisto

Part of Entertaining Erdington… more events…

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Friday 8th February 2013, 7pm

Town Hall

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
David Daniels Radamisto
Patricia Bardon Zenobia
Luca Pisaroni Tiridate
Elizabeth Watts Tigrane
Brenda Rae Polissena
Robert Rice Farasmane

Handel: Radamisto 196’

The inter-familial complexities of Radamisto’s colourful plot might have you scratching your head, but Handel’s music will never fail to delight in this star-studded performance of the opera by The English Concert. Handel’s expressive and moving arias follow one another in rich profusion and include the famous Ombra cara, considered by some to be the finest of all Handel’s arias and here sung by David Daniels, in the words of The New York Times ‘the most acclaimed countertenor of the day, perhaps the best ever… simply a great singer’.

5.45pm – Free pre-concert performance by students from the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR) at University of Birmingham following a week of masterclasses with Harry Bicket and The English Concert.

Concert performance sung in Italian with English surtitles. http://www.thsh.co.uk



Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “Act I was good, Act II was better, Act III was best. Tigrane had had enough of the machinations of Tiridate and decided to take arms against him with some more sparkling fioratura and belligerence from Watts in S’adopri il braccio armato. Radamisto again swore his ‘heart’s sweet love’ for Zenobia in Dolce bene di quest’alma, in one of Handel’s favourite 12/8 rhythms, although I thought the balance slightly suspect. Tiridate had a final play for Zenobia but the disguised Radamisto intervened, only to blow his cover – death awaited him. His fiery outburst called Tiridate a coward in life and in death. Polissena agreed and in Barbaro partirò turned against her tyrannical spouse; with much colour and a forceful crescendo, Rae rendered a realistic mixture of disgust and angst. She stormed off, head held high! The two introductory horns of Ursula Paludan Monberg and Martin Lawrence heralded the next number and gave it an immediate bounce. Alzo al volo reminded me of the metaphor aria of the huntsman tracking the scent in Giulio Cesare. Tiridate was still chasing Zenobia but his chances of a kill were zero; Pisaroni earned the cheers he got from the audience for his animated line.”     …




Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The answer is simple – a couple of hours of splendid music, which I can’t imagine being played and sung better than here. The title role was written for a castrato and Radamisto is almost the personal property of American counter-tenor David Daniels. To hear this burly bearded man emitting a dramatic soprano’s voice was bizarre at first – like an act of operatic ventriloquism – but his artistry is unquestionable as his showpiece aria Perfido immediately revealed. Patricia Bardon (as his wife Zenobia) is almost as remarkable, a real coloratura contralto with fluency and a powerful chest register – a joy to hear.”     …

Nicola Benedetti Plays Concertos for Christmas

Part of Christmas 2012 at THSH… more events…

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Part of Entertaining Erdington… more events…

Sunday 9th December, 3pm

Town Hall

European Union Chamber Orchestra
Nicola Benedetti violin
Leonard Elschenbroich cello

Corelli Concerto Grosso in G minor, Christmas Concerto 15’
Vivaldi Cello Concerto in G minor RV 416 10’
Manfredini Concerto Grosso in F, Christmas Concerto 10’
Vivaldi Concerto for Violin & Cello in F RV 544 10’
Torelli Concerto in G minor, Christmas Concerto 10’
Handel Pastoral Symphony from Messiah 3’
Vivaldi Autumn and Winter from The Four Seasons 17’

Nicola Benedetti has established herself as one of the most charismatic of young performers: an international superstar with a major record contract and ‘the complete assurance of a mature soloist’ (The Independent). Together with the European Union Chamber Orchestra, she performs an exuberant baroque programme featuring delightful seasonal highlights: the peacefully pastoral Christmas Concertos of Corelli and his contemporaries, and Vivaldi’s popular Winter from The Four Seasons.



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Benedetti then returned to round off the afternoon with two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Autumn and Winter. Her understanding and production of the pieces was impressive – you couldn’t help but wish she had time to add in Spring and Summer.

She bowed to the audience’s wishes for a short encore but returned to the Vivaldi, repeating an excerpt from Winter already played. Fair enough it was lovely but it was also a missed opportunity to dazzle the audience with a different piece of music.”     …



Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Benedetti’s regular chamber music partner Leonard Elschenbroich presented our first Vivaldi of the day, the Cello Concerto in G minor, with beautiful tone and virtuosity. With delicate orchestral backing, Elschenbroich executed ascending and descending scales galore, fast and furious in the Allegro then controlled and lament-like in the Largo. Following the EUCO’s pretty rendition of Manfredini’s Christmas Concerto, Benedetti and Elschenbroich duetted in Vivaldi’s Concerto for violin and cello in F major, which has a subtitle that translates as “The world turned upside-down”. The composer had played a joke on his soloists by writing their parts in the wrong clef, but due to his skilful composition it was possible to swap parts; then, with a quick shift in pitch, it would work. Sounds a bit complicated to me, but there were certainly no issues this afternoon, just plenty of energy and verve, with the violin and cello interweaving and echoing, and extra texture added by the orchestra. The final Allegro clearly gave lots of scope for the soloists to show off, bringing the first half to a suitably upbeat conclusion.”     …

Handel from Il Giardino Armonico

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Thu 19 May 7:30pm at Town Hall

Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini director

Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 1 12’
Vivaldi Concerto in F for Strings and Recorder, La Tempesta Di Mare 7’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 12 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 6 15’
Geminiani Concerto Grosso Op 5, No 12, La Follia 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 7 11’

‘As Italian as the music itself’, wrote Gramophone of Il Giardino Armonico, ‘brightly coloured, individualistic, confident, stylish, arrestingly decorated, bubbling with enthusiasm.’ They are one of Europe’s leading Baroque ensembles, at the top of their game, their revelatory performances packed with freshness and pizzazz. Their Town Hall concert includes the sparkling Concerti Grossi of Handel and music by his Italian contemporaries. www.thsh.co.uk

Click here to see a promotional video of Il Giardino Armonico and Handel 12 Concerti grossi, op.6

Cecilia Bartoli: Sacrificium

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Sun 5 Dec 3:00pm at Symphony Hall

Cecilia Bartoli mezzo soprano
Kammerorchester Basel
Julia Schröder concert master

Porpora Sinfonia from Meride e Selinunte
Porpora “Come nave” from Siface
Broschi “Chi non sente al mio dolore” from Merope
Porpora Ouverture from Germanico in Germania
Handel “Lascia la spina”, from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno
Veracini Ouverture No. 6 in G minor
Vinci “Cervo in bosco” from Medo
Leo “Qual farfalla” from Zenobia in Palmira
Araia “Cadrò, ma qual si mira” from Berenice
Porpora “Usignolo sventurato” from Siface
Graun “Misero pargoletto“from Demofoonte
A. Scarlatti Sinfonia di concerto grosso No. 5 in D minor
Caldara “Quel buon pastor” from La morte d’Abel
Porpora Ouvertures from Gedeone and Perdono, amata Nice
Vinci “Quanto invidio la sorte… Chi vive amante” from Alessandro nelle Indie
Porpora “Nobil onda” from Adelaide

Plus three encores!

‘Confirmation that Bartoli remains one of today’s greatest artists…music of exceptional beauty and passion’ BBC Music magazine on Sacrificium CD

Join Cecilia Bartoli for one of the highlights of the season: a journey through the extraordinary world of eighteenth-century castratos, whose dazzling vocal virtuosity held their contemporaries spellbound. Her latest album, Sacrificium, concentrates on the music of Nicolò Porpora, whose pupils were the most famous castratos of all time. Experience this music brought to life again, by one of today’s leading singers.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor Oliver Condy explains why he has recommended this afternoon’s concert:
“To experience Cecilia Bartoli live in concert is as much about seeing her as hearing her. Bartoli’s musicianship, sense of drama and entertainment is of a calibre matched by a tiny handful of singers today. A unique afternoon for those lucky to grab a ticket!”

1:45pm Pre-concert talk by David Owen Norris: Everything you wanted to know about the castrato but were afraid to ask.

Review by Robert J Farr, MusicWebInternational :

(but for Manchester performance):


… “This programme of a selection of the virtuosic writing for the castrati yet again allowed Miss Bartoli to illustrate her phenomenal range with open throated ease, including a perfectly controlled trill and thrilling embellishments, always at the service of the words and the varied intentions of composer’s music. Her body language, flashing eyes as well as the sheer vivacity and vitality of her singing draws in the audience and makes the totality of her performance an event to be remembered. In her second encore she sang the opening phrases on a formidably long breath that would have allowed even an average swimmer a length or two under water. It was simply another addition to her interpretative and vocal skills that few, if any, equal today.” …
 Blog post from KidsMusicCorner:
“Amazing! That’s All I Can Say.”
That’s what a 9-year old girl wrote in her diary on Sunday after going to her first ever concert of classical music.” …..
Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:
She swaggered onstage in knee-length boots, hip-hugging breeches, silk-lined cloak and tricorn hat – the epitome of a pantomime principal boy. […][…] The Kammerorchester Basel, under their exuberant leader Julia Schröder, gave splendid support both in the arias and the interspersed instrumental pieces by Porpora.[…]

[…] Bartoli’s singing, her beaming smile and showmanship reminds us that opera can be fun – her standing ovation was thoroughly deserved.”

Rating * * * *


 Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb:


… “Any reviewer of a Bartoli concert can soon run out of superlatives. It is impossible to overlook: the laughter in her voice (remember Alma Cogan from another genre?), the Technicolor range of timbre, the engagement with the words, the infectious charisma. Not only did her fans love Bartoli, but she loved them. She got a standing ovation, of course. Two hours of music from her and the supporting band was not enough for the packed Birmingham audience. With an exaggerated of swish of the red billowing skirt she was now wearing, complete with glistening gold top, she was more than happy to oblige. She had saved some of her more astonishing sounds for the encores. I wish I had had a stop watch to time one of her notes in the first; it may not have been the full minute that certain castrati were reported to achieve, but the messa di voce seemed to go on forever. For her final entry she donned two enormous red feathers that together with another tongue twister said it all. Bartoli’s The Art and Ecstasy of the Castrato was pure ecstasy.” …