Wednesday 12 March 2014

Hagar Sharvit at London Handel Festival

Hagar Sharvit
Hagar Sharvit
Handel and Purcell: Hagar Sharvit, Jory Vinikour: London Handel Festival
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 10 2014
Star rating: 4.0

Handel & Purcell from 2013 London Handel Singing Competition Finalist

The mezzo-soprano Hagar Sharvit was a finalist in the 2013 Handel Singing Competition and on Monday 10 March, accompanied by harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, Sharvit gave a lunch time recital at St. George's Church, Hanover Square as part of the London Handel Festival. Starting with Handel's cantata La Lucrezia she included arias from Hercules and Theodora, as well as songs by Purcell and Purcell's Blessed Virgin's Expostulation.

Handel's cantata La Lucrezia dates from around 1708 when Handel was in Rome, writing music for a number of patrons such as Count Ruspoli for whose musical soirees the work was written. It covers the same story as Britten's Rape of Lucretia, with Lucrezia's monologue being a flexible series of recitatives and arias. The work has a great deal to offer a singer with its sympathetic portrayal of the Roman matron's despair and humiliation.

Sharvit showed us a richly warm mezzo-soprano voice with a lovely lower register and the ability to combine expressive singing with the technical facility to get her voice round Handel's passagework. She took a vibrant approach to the cantata contrasting the dramatic temperament with moments of richly expressive simpler vocal line and a real sense of dignity. Though she gave us some superbly controlled runs, there was a sense that she favoured vivid drama over perfection of line and the top of her voice seemed a little uneven.

New scenes of Joy from Handel's Theodora was finely dignified and superbly controlled. It did not quite capture the character's rapture, but was lovely nonetheless. Where shall I fly, Dejanira's mad scene from Hercules was expressive and vivid; Sharvit made the most of the works, spitting them out at times. She also brought out the arias alternation between vivid drama and melancholy, though without quite mining piece's real sense of madness.

There's not a swain, one of Purcell's early theatre songs (from Rule a Wife and Have a wife) showed us Sharvit in lighter mode, combining her dark-hued voice with a nice charm. Purcell's Bess of Bedlam is far deeper territory, and she combined a feel for the words with a lovely shaped flexible recitative. Again, madness is expressed with vivid alternation of moods, something Sharvit did well, bringing a schizophrenic feel to the emotions. Dear, pretty youth is from Purcell's music to The Tempest, and showed Sharvit in teasing, charming mood. Finally, a beautifully controlled and finely expressive account of The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation.

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