Intricate But Powerful: Handel's Berenice Is Skilfully Revived At Royal Opera House
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When Handel first premiered his mannered comic opera about the deadly dance of love and politics between the Egyptian monarch and her Roman suitors in 1737, he tasted defeat. Berenice, named for the almighty queen of the Nile, never won over the legions who had flocked to the composer’s earlier, more popular works.
But the Royal Opera’s new production of this intricate power play, — which opened the London Handel Festival under the inspired direction of Adele Thomas — is destined for a different fate. Claire Booth’s turn as the indomitable yet lovestruck Berenice brings new fire and wit to the role as the queen constantly plays off her sister, Selene, lustily performed by Rachael Lloyd, against an assortment of Roman emmissaries looking to form romantic and geopolitical alliances. Characters in full Baroque regalia — a delightful anachronism — circle their potential suitors and victims with equal measures of cunning and passion.
Jacquelyn Stucker as Roman nobleman Alessandro, originally a castrato role, highlights the production’s brashness, with all the intrigues underscored and driven by the renowned London Handel Orchestra, conducted by harpsichord virtuoso Laurence Cummings. The opera shines as a musical and visual spectacle, with all the powdered-wig excess worthy of its era: Staging, in which the players literally run rings around each other, flying over and around Hannah Clark’s simple yet sumptuous set, befits the delicate mille-feuille of a libretto.
Berenice, Royal Opera House, 35-36 Bow Street, WC2E 9DD. Tickets from £7, until 7 April 2019.
Last Updated 28 March 2019