Mezzo Jane Irwin, an Edinburgh Festival regular, made her San Francisco
Symphony debut tonight in a fetching 300-year-old novelty. Handel's
youthful cantata "O Numi eterni (La Lucrezia)" is not only a premiere
for the West Coast, it must be a blue-moon special most anywhere (with
the notable exception of the recent Lorraine Hunt Lieberson recording).
"La Lucrezia," with its after-the-fact lament of the rape by Sextus
Tarquin, is dramatically compact, Lucrezia's despair and rage communicated
with economy of text and a broad, varied sweep of music. It was an
excellent showcase for Irwin's ample talent.
She has a warm, agile voice, with a velvety, clear tone. Handling
difficult dynamic changes smoothly, transparently, Irwin is notable in
not flaunting that ability, focusing on the music and the text... or,
at least, the former. Her diction is not on par with the excellence of
her secure phrasing, bright high notes.
The conductor was Bernard Labadie, making yet another strong impression.
His direction of Handel ("Lucrezia" and the "Water Music") was impeccable,
he conducted the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 4 with "Handelian" liveliness
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