His wintery aria at the close of part 1, against finely accented, descending orchestral lines like dragging snow was a high point of expressive intensity. As his Queen, Tamiri, Helen Sherman sang with an attractively complex, rounded sound of gently glowing hue, and her part-two aria with beautifully subtle filigree from Baroque flautist Mikaela Oberg against translucent dissonance on strings was another highpoint. For the rest of the time she just felt really guilty about not killing herself and her son as her husband had helpfully suggested.
Taryn Fiebig, cutting a strong stage presence in military camouflage chic, characterised Selinda, Farnace’s smart seductive sister, with subtly shaded tones, giving lonely stillness and alluring echoes to the sound, and musical shape to the line. As her besotted admirer Gilade, countertenor Max Riebl had a voice of distinctively shaded sweetness that dispensed highly virtuosic runs and figurative passages with fluid ease and beguiling grace.
As the formidable Berenice, Jacqueline Dark sustained spirited fire and a steely determined tone in her stormy rage arias right up to the moment when she thinks maybe she won’t kill her grandson after all. Timothy Reynolds had straightforward projection and precision as Pompeo, as did Michael Petruccelli as the boorish harasser Aquilio.
Vivaldi’s score is dramatic, well scored and supported by strong incisive gestures, which conductor Erin Helyard laid out with refined musical instinct, stylish discernment and a fine ear for the beauty of transparently balanced texture. A particular strength of Pinchgut productions is the attentive refinement of the Orchestra of the Antipodes, from the incisive unanimity right from the first note of the overture, to the fine obligato passages from horn players Carla Blackwood and Doree Dixon, and theorbo players Simon Martyn-Ellis and Nicholas Pollack, to the sensitive matching of sound from strings led by Matthew Greco and continuo cello from Anton Baba.
Mark Gaal’s production and Isabel Hudson’s design adapted the purposeless fury of ancient battle to the bleak body bags of modern warfare though the grimness of the message was somewhat undermined by the absurdity of Antonio Lucchini’s libretto.