Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra
Alessandro Scarlatti: Hagar and Ismael
The season's opening of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, conducted by David Shemer, featured Alessandro Scarlatti's oratorio "Hagar and Ismael," an unjustifiably almost forgotten masterpiece of the early Baroque.
Scarlatti, far from being content with the dry biblical narrative, highlights the human tragedy of the undeservedly expelled mother and child, and the torments of Abraham, torn between loyalty to his aging wife and his poorly veiled feelings for his young concubine.
The casting lacked consistency. Only soprano Rona Israel-Kolat has what it takes to portray her role as Sara credibly. As a jealous, domineering, nagging wife, her forceful voice leaves Abraham with little choice. The ultra-feminine voice and looks of soprano Ye'ela Avital did not translate well into the boyish role of Ismael. David Feldman's countertenor also sounded too dark-timbred and masculine to be convincing as the frail, delicate Hagar.
Christian Fellner's weak bass successfully reflected - intentionally or not - the weakness of patriarch Abraham's character. Lianne Aharoni's soprano as the Angel also sounded professional and strong, but not angelic.
Benny Hendel's thought-provoking narration was an integral part of the artistic presentation and the orchestra plastically and suggestively conveyed the complex emotional moods of the characters.
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