Despite the lockdown restrictions without choir singing, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain inspired nine striking new pieces from their four rising star composers, presented at NYCGB’s Young Composers 3 (NMC), director Ben Parry. In the sensual and whispering Softly, Welsh composer Derri Joseph Lewis explores the difficult experience of coming out as LGBTQ+. Kristina Arakelyan set Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud to music, with rich and vibrant choral textures. Anna Disley-Simpson created atmospheric sets from February Twilight by Sara Teasdale and a poem by Rudyard Kipling. For British Chinese and London-based Alex Ho, the racial harassment faced by the UK’s South East Asian and East Asian communities prompted Hush, prickly, menacing and poetic.
“My ghost will haunt the tyrant”, castigates the mighty Cleopatra, exploding with anger and grief in Piangerò la sort mia, one of her spectacular tunes in Giulio Cesare in Egitto. This is one of the many strengths of Handel: Enchantresses (Alpha Classics), the fourth joint venture between the crystal-clear French soprano Sandrine Piau and Jérôme Correas, director and harpsichordist, and his baroque ensemble The Paladins. Handel’s “enchantresses” include queens as well as mermaids and witches: Melissa (Amadigi), Almirena (Rinaldo), Alcine and Morgana (Alcine) are all there, their vocal fireworks and heartfelt outpourings interspersed with movements from Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op 6 No. 6, and A minor, Op 6 No. 4.
The air crown of unparalleled genius – everyone is a competitor – goes to Ah! from Alcina! mio cor! With its sobbing inner parts, its sinking and haunting bassline, its voice jumping with anguish, this emotional marathon (nearly 12 minutes) is a turning point in opera. The title witch finally learns what it’s like to feel love. Sizzling performances from all.
the royal opera offers Gounod streams Faust (from 2019), with Michael Fabiano, Erwin Schrott and Irina Lungu (£10 until February 13), and Verdi’s Nabuco (current production; £16 until February 19) with Liudmyla Monastyrska. Don’t miss.