The concert took place in the prestigious setting of the Hall of Mirrors of the castle. The soprano was worthy of the place and, very well accompanied by the Royal Opera Orchestra, she offered to the public an anthology of the most beautiful arias of the composer.
Obviously, when one crosses the salons of the château to enter the magnificent gallery, symbol of the omnipotence of the Sun King, one appreciates the privilege of attending such a concert. One can even imagine, for a moment, having stepped into the past and finding oneself in the middle of the Court to participate in this unique moment for which the Royal Opera Orchestra proves to be the perfect vector for the music that is going to be proposed to us.
After the opening of Serse, followed by an “Ombra mai fù” as a preamble, in which Sonya Yoncheva’s voice is as powerful as it is masterful, we really enter the heart of the matter. The soprano, in a superb red dress with cape, demonstrates her technique in the lively aria “Non disperar, chi sa?” from Giulio Cesare. The artist, blossoming in front of us, plays with her body and one can then imagine, without difficulty, the beautiful Cleopatra laughing at her brother Ptolemy.
In the magnificent interlude from Act III of Serse that follows, the orchestral strings are of absolute precision and a violin solo accompanied by theorbo reminds us of the delicacy of the composer’s music.
The first great bravura piece comes next: it is probably one of the most splendid arias ever written by Georg Friedrich Handel, a long repetitive lamento whose beauty rivals its duration. It is the “Ah mio cor, schernito sei” from Alcina. Yoncheva, who one imagines ideally in the role, puts at its service the fullness of her voice, plays with its colors, lightens it, when necessary, then fixes her energy in the acceleration of ” Ma che fa gemendo Alcina? It is then a moment of pure grace that unfolds under the magnificent ceilings of the place.
The concerto grosso N°4 by Arcengelo Corelli, with its 4 movements, is then the occasion to appreciate the excellence and the virtuosity of the orchestra conducted by Stefan Plewniak.
In the second part, we find Cleopatra, dressed this time in a beautiful ivory dress, but in a much less comfortable situation, since, in act II, she fears for her life with this “Se pietà di me non senti”. As in Alcina, Yoncheva, with her extreme musicality, demonstrates her ability to convey feelings of despair. Accompanied by the violins, her warm voice marries the endless convolutions of suffering and the moment then, is like suspended.
In the same vein, follows the aria in English ” With darkness deep ” where Theodora, melancholic, contemplates her painful destiny. Very slowly, with delicacy, Yoncheva brings an infinite sweetness.
Then comes the opening of Rinaldo, where one can appreciate the play of the oboe with the violins. From this opera, it is Almirena who expresses herself with the sublime ” Lascia ch’io pianga “. Yoncheva shows herself again remarkable, notably thanks to the stability of her medium which is marvelous here.
The official part of the recital ended with the aria of Bradamante from Alcina, where a light love song rises in which Yoncheva has the luxury of attenuating her voice on a verse or, on the contrary, of making it grow so that it resonates in the Great Gallery.
After an hour and twenty minutes of music, the soprano seems as fresh as she was the first minute, and then, totally fulfilled, she savors the applause of the audience. She then prolonged the evening, offering three encores, first leaving Handel for a superb death from Purcell’s Dido and “Tristes apprêts” from Rameau’s Castor et Pollux; then Yoncheva returned at the very end, with a few enchanting verses from Alcina’s “Ah mio cor, schernito sei”.
During the entire concert, the soprano not only dazzled us, but also astonished us, because, while she explores repertoires that venture as far as verismo (Fedora recently at La Scala in Milan), she continues to interpret these baroque arias with pure integrity, even bringing to them, without the slightest hint of damage, an exemplary maturity.
As we leave the hall, after having lingered for the cocktail party in the upper hallway of the Royal Chapel, we find Sonya Yoncheva simply sitting at a small table, listening and receiving the tribute of her fans with the greatest kindness. It all adds up to the conviction that the combination of talent and generosity is undeniably the mark of a great artist.