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Appropriately, the star turn was Louise Alder’s sizzling Semele, tremendously sung, sexily bending notes to suggest impure thoughts. Her silky delivery of “Oh, Sleep, why dost thou leave me?” employed a balmy mezza voce and she and Richardot crushed and glided notes in their sisterly duet “Prepare then, ye immortal choir”. Borne aloft by a posse of male choristers – which beats taking the W3 down the Alexandra Park hill! – she sang a pouting, panting “With fond desiring”. I liked the way she played “Myself I shall adore” initially as self-mockery, but then fully succumbed to Juno’s mirror, almost swooning in narcissistic sighs. Her coloratura runs were exquisitely turned, especially in a spitfire “No, no, I'll take no less” as she demands that Jupiter appear to her in godly form, which leads to her ultimate destruction. Semele may well crash and burn, but Alder’s soaring soprano hit the vocal heights.
BACHTRACK - Mark Pullinger
Louise Alder was a glowing, unusually sympathetic Semele who sang an especially beautiful Oh Sleep, Why Dost Thou Leave Me?”

Unquestionably, though, the vocal honours belong to the chorus.. and to Alder, proving that she was robbed of the main award.. in the 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She inhabits every move and phrase with natural intensity and perfect instinct, manages to blend with Richardot in the Semele/Ino duet and goes along with Guthrie's best idea for a da capo aria, "Myself I shall adore," starting out with mockery of Juno-as-Ino's "take a look in the mirror" before succumbing. The climax of what has to be the early 18th century's most vivid dramatic sequence, "No, no, I'll take no less", is what you dream of in Handel - technically perfect fireworks, pure fire-breathing characterisation, as if Semele has actually gone mad in reaching too far.. What genius of Handel to give the lightning-blasted girl the bipolar opposite of this excess as Alder reduces the voice to a sliver of sound for the expiration.

THE ARTS DESK - David Nice


Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra 

May 2019

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