Harry Bicket is well known to opera goers for his stylish, revelatory interpretations of Baroque operas, persuading modern orchestra to take a historically informed approach to their playing. This year, as music director of Sante Fe Opera, he branches out into Bernstein, bringing his broader musical horizons into focus. Heidi Waleson met the Anglo-American conductor in New York during the recent run of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera.
When the conductor Harry Bicket became artistic director of The English Concert in 2007, it seemed likely that the renowned period instrument ensemble, founded by harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock in 1973, would pivot towards vocal music. Indeed, the ensemble's now-celebrated series of Handel operas in concert is currently in its seventh iteration: Rinaldo starring Iestyn Davies, plays at the Barbican and Carnegie Hall this month. However, the move into opera was originally a modest one-off: 'It was planned during the big crash in 2008, for four years after that, with the hope that the economy would improve,' Bicket recalls. 'I said we should absolutely do it. but I thought we should be brave, and do it complete, not just timidly serve up little bits. That's when Carnegie Hall came up with the idea of performing Radamisto on a Sunday afternoon at 2pm.'
No one could possibly have slept through that first Radamisto, in February 2013, with the fire and pathos in equaly measure from David Daniels in the title role, vocal thrills from Luca Pisaroni, Joelle Havey and Brenda Rae, and a revelatory performance from The English Concert with Bicket leading from the harpsichord. In subsequent years, the annual opera has become a must-attend, featuring Joyce DiDonato as a startling protean Alcina one year; the lustrous Dorothea Roschmann as Theodora another; and always The English Concert with Bicket at the helm, whose remarkable variety of expression defies anyone who still claims that Handel operas are boring.