CHRISTOPHER SMITH Maltings Concert Hall, Snape
With a tangle of love and jealousy, dishonour and despair and a happy ending, Ariodante is a riot of emotions and powerful confrontations.
Handel, at his most inventive in 1735, found the music for every mood, and English Touring Opera's production, though economical, makes the most of every situation.
A major plus point is the translation by director James Conway. Though not every word can be heard, it is clear enough what is going on.
A backcloth of cliffs and waves sets the scene in stormy Scotland. Just about enough variety in the rather gloomy staging is provided by moving panels. Against one of them is set a full-length mirror that in act one keeps sending a dazzling beam out of the auditorium like a flashing lighthouse.
The real emphasis naturally falls on the staging, supported by a richly imaginative score played on period instruments and conducted at the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings.
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Taking the richly ornamented style in her stride, the mezzo soprano Louise Mott is in splendid form in the particularly demanding role of Ariodante.
As the heroine Ginevra, Joanna Burton looks the part and knows how to win our sympathy, while Andrew Slater uses an expansive bass voice and his commanding physical presence to real effect as her suffering father. Though Jonathan Peter Kenny cannot be faulted on range, agility or commitment, his counter tenor tone is unappealing.