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BBC Music Magazine (Christmas Issue - 2018)
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Reviewer: Berta Joncus

Long neglected, Arminio is glorious. Bold melodies, melting duets, insane pyrotechnics, bustling overtures and sparkling solos for the band – what’s not to love? Forget narrative logic and you’ll be swept away, by this production especially. Countertenor Christopher Lowrey is the Germanic chieftain of the title role, betrayed by his father-in-law Segeste to the invading Romans. Surely the best Arminio yet recorded, Lowrey heroically slices through the busiest passagi, building to cadenza finales whose virtuosity dwarfs the singing he’s just pulled off. Lowrey is as expressive as he is athletic, and his characterisation carries the action through Arminio’s improbable release by the Roman general Varo to his reunion with his troops, victory in battle, and forgiveness of Segeste.

Handel quickened the pace by cutting 75 per cent of the libretto’s original recitative. As Arminio dives from one passion into the next, his wife Tusnelda (Anna Devin), follows close behind. Sometimes Devin steals the show with her sincerity, vocal lustre, wistful pathos and knock-out extemporising. Both principals draw inspiration from conductor Laurence Cummings, whose brilliant manoeuvring through the score shows why he’s a world-renowned Handel interpreter.

Other cast members give strong support – notably Sophie Junker, whose vivacity as Tusnelda’s brother Sigismondo animates this plangent hero. Sometimes the excitement of live production pushes good judgment aside: as Segeste, the hugely charismatic bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum can deploy too much brawn and yodel his leaps; countertenor Owen Willets, savouring his line as the Roman tribune Tullio, forgets to keep up with Cummings’s beat. On-stage thumps are audible.

This is nonetheless a mesmerising performance.


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