OPERA / A welcome in every valley: Stephen Walsh on WNO's touring version of Handel's Ariodante in Cardiff

David Alden's camp-surreal staging of Handel's Ariodante, which reached Welsh National Opera in Cardiff on Thursday, is billed as a co-production with English National Opera (it was first seen at the London Coliseum in April last year). But it might be more accurate to call it a co- receptacle, into which the two companies have been able to pour their own ideas on performing Handel.

ENO did the piece in English, with sophisticated neo- authentic (for want of a better word) orchestral playing (under the period specialist Nicholas McGegan), vocal style of a clean, devastating brilliance, a female Ariodante certainly, but a strong male alto Polinesso - the reverse of Handel's casting at Covent Garden in January 1735.

WNO, true to recent form, sing it in Italian (using surtitles derived, for some reason, from a 1734 translation), with little deep attempt at authentic instrumental style but generous, if occasionally wayward, vocal ornament, and female leads throughout.

The Cardiff product is as yet the stiffer of the two, but it should relax with time; as for the work, it ought to be a hit in the spiritual home of Messiah (there are plenty of foretastes). But perhaps that home is a shade too spiritual.

As much as any other work by Handel, Ariodante is a stunning vocal circus. The title role, in particular, has one enormous aria after another - a test not only of style and technique, but of sheer stamina as well. The mezzo-soprano Della Jones's performance is a triumph of method and artistry over an instrument that sometimes, it must be said, rebels - her unrelenting final number, 'Dopo notte', was delivered almost literally on a breath and a prayer, and yet, in purely technico-musical terms, it was immaculate.

No doubt the sword and buckler are not, these days, particularly her style. Yet the beautiful (and extremely long) 'Scherza infida', which Alden has her sing while sliding gently down the outside of a pre-Wellsian space-ship, remained dignified, expressive and controlled throughout.

Felicity Palmer's Polinesso is no less in control, and raises fewer vocal problems. Consciously or unconsciously, she styles her singing towards a suppositious castrato brilliance, while hitting off the duke's sensual ruthlessness with precision. This is a marvellous, chilling musical portrait.

Also vivid and touching are Alwyn Mellor's Ginevra and Susannah Waters' Dalinda - a disturbing image of sexual self- abasement. As for the real men (to use John Ford language), they get short shrift in Handel; but Umberto Chiummo's King and Gregory Cross's Lurcanio both excel in a not always helpful environment.

Marc Minkowski conducts with much (perhaps too much) vitality, now and then in full reflected view thanks to Ian McNeil's shiny plastic front- drop. But the orchestral playing needs work; so far it is untidy and sometimes inaccurate, with more pace than rhythm. Under-rehearsal? One would hate to think so. But Handel isn't a doddle for the orchestra, whatever they may say in the Valleys.

Final performance at Cardiff New Theatre, 6.30pm tonight (booking: 0222 394844), then on tour to Birmingham Hippodrome 18 March (021-622 7486), Southampton Mayflower 14 April (0703 229771) and Bristol Hippodrome 21 April (0272 299444)

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders