Reviews for Boston Baroque’s AGRIPPINA
In a staged-concert version of Handel’s Agrippina, Boston Baroque headlined Susanna Phillips as the title role April 24 and 25, 2015. The exciting performance was featured in review from writers of The Boston Globe, Boston Classical Review, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, and Berkshire Fine Arts.
“But Streshinsky also elicited some wonderfully vivid performances on Saturday night, starting with Susanna Phillips in the title role, vocally riveting, dramatically confident and with power in reserve. Her “Pensieri voi mi tormentate,” in which this queen of deception movingly admits to her own fears, brought some of the evening’s best singing, with Phillips’s plaintive cries eloquently echoed by the solo oboe (Marc Schachman). Amanda Forsythe owned the role of Poppea, exuding feistiness, style, and gleaming tone. Countertenor David Hansen sang an extremely agile Nero, and Kevin Deas’s Claudius had both tonal depth and good comic instincts.”
(Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe, April 2015)
“Agrippina lives and dies on the strength of its title role, the Roman empress who schemes to have her son, Nero, inherit the throne. (Those familiar with Roman history will know that Agrippina’s plans for Nero were not made with the welfare of the empire in mind.) Susanna Phillips was magnificent as Agrippina. Her empress is a believable combination of sophisticated aristocrat, sensual manipulator, and worrywart mother. What makes her dramatic interpretation work is that she lets us see the stress and anxiety just under the surface.
Vocally, Phillips was consistently excellent. Though she doesn’t deliver Handel’s fioratura as fast as she might, her soprano easily fills Jordan Hall, and her phrasing is deeply intelligent and musical. Her vocal portrayal is the sort that would leave a keen impression even without seeing her on stage. A standout was her rendition of “Pensieri, voi mi tormentate,” in which, in the dark hours of the night, Agrippina is suddenly terrified by her own actions—a musical antecedent to Lady Macbeth. In one memorable moment, Phillips thins her voice into a wandering thread, like the insidious thoughts that trouble her.
(Angelo Mao, Boston Classical Review, April 2015)
Boston Baroque played very well under Martin Pearlman. They were never too loud for the singers. The continuo section, 0f cellist Jennifer Morsches theorbo player Michael Leopold and harpsichordist Michael Beattie sounded excellent. Concertmaster Christina Day Martinson was, as usual, outstanding.
The big discovery for most of the audience was Australian countertenor David Hansen, who has had a meteoric rise to international fame in the last few years. He was funny two weeks ago, and hilarious here as an ambition-free young man who could not keep his shirt buttoned, or indeed even on, and who has a wickedly good sense of humor, and quite the impressive voice as well. Audiences seem totally delighted with him, as they were with the marvelous Susanna Philips, who sang gorgeously all evening.“
(Susan Miron, The Boston Musical Intelligencer, April 2015)
Let me get to the point without wasting any time: In the title role of Agrippina, soprano Susanna Phillips gave a performance of superstar caliber. In perfect voice through all her vocal registers with constant beauty of tone, she was dramatic in both her singing and acting, mining the endless comic possibilities of the ruthless, scheming, amoral Roman Empress, swinging her gold lamé purse and rearranging her matching cape like a Real Housewife of the Parioli district. Her performance was so astonishing that I had to hear her sing her two extraordinary second-act arias again, so I did something I haven’t done in years – I second-acted the Saturday performance. (For those not in the know, that means that I arrived at intermission and walked in looking as if I owned the house.)
What made Phillips’s performance all the more satisfying is that she was part of a cast for the most part composed of other excellent singing actors. As her hapless fop of a son, Nerone, who would decline into homicidal degeneracy once he achieved power, Australian David Hansen, the latest star-quality countertenor to arrive on the international scene, sang with an amazing mix of an unnaturally high tessitura and virility, bringing to mind a young David Daniels, who showed that countertenors, who had been seen (and heard) as freakish, could be butch.
(David Bonetti, Berkshire Fine Arts, May 2015)