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Critic’s Notebook: More English than Toast with Marmite and Cheddar, Fair Oriana

Also reviewed for DiePresse: Resonanzen-Festival: Very charming, indeed

A delightfully frothy mix of British, all-too British baroque from Fair Oriana at Vienna’s Resonanzen Festival.

“Resonanzen“, the annual early music festival of Vienna‘s Konzerthaus, continues and on Sunday had arrived on Venus. It’s an astoundingly British planet, it turns out, courtesy the vocal duo Fair Oriana, who offered a program of better- and lesser-known English composers and those who made their living on that sceptered isle, this other Eden, demi-paradise. The program was accordingly tailored to fit the love goddess theme and was backed by a minimalist combo of cembalo, viola da gamba, theorbo (and baroque guitar), oboe (and traverse flute), as well as the amiable narrator Timothy Vaughan.

With their golden hair, golden dress with vertical folds, and classical gesturing, the two singers – Fair Oriana-founder Penelope Appleyard and Lucinda Cox (the replacement for the other co-founder, Angela Hicks) – looked as though two of the caryatid columns had flown over from the Musikverein across the road. The way these two sopranos – with similarly bright, piercing timbre; Appleyard’s a little starker, brittle; Cox a little warmer and more diffuse – presented Purcell, Pepusch, Handel & Co., was most charming, indeed -- in its gentle, genteel way downright innocent.

Penelope Appleyard had also provided the texts – faux-Shakespearean, dotted with anachronistic modern references – that Timothy Vaughan read, in English, to the amusement of the involved audience. With a carefully measured dosage of harmless ribaldry, he kept the audience chuckling along. And when the band returned after the break wearing, wait for it, sunglasses all; a baseball cap here, a leather jacket there: my, what merriment this caused. There was a heavy whiff of pre-Raphaelite music-theatricality in this, combined with the guileless charm of a college theater production – and the whole thing was more English than toast with marmite and cheddar. Handel’s “As steals the morn” und Purcells “Now that the sun” closed this pallidly-attractive, entertaining evening.

Photos © Manuel Chemineau

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