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by Timothy Robson

FORSYTHE-Amanda-greenThis weekend Apollo’s Fire, directed by Jeannette Sorrell, gave four performances of their latest program, The Power of Love: Passions of Handel and Vivaldi. The featured soloist was the brilliant young soprano Amanda Forsythe. I heard the Friday night concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, with its newly renovated acoustics which livened up the sound considerably. The music was mostly Handel and Vivaldi, but Jean-Philippe Rameau made a couple of cameo appearances as well.

One of the hallmarks of Apollo’s Fire’s performances is the naturalness and freedom of their music-making. Although very carefully planned and rehearsed, the musicians always project a sense of spontaneity and improvisation. Also, Jeannette Sorrell is not afraid to make things her own, as exemplified in the program by two of her transcriptions of Vivaldi works that opened and closed the concert. The Allegro from the Concerto in D, RV511, originally for two violins, was arranged as a concerto grosso. It was stylishly done, and had the program not stated it that it was an arrangement, few would have been the wiser. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

FORSYTHE-Amanda-greenJust a year ago, Boston-based soprano Amanda Forsythe dazzled Apollo’s Fire audiences with memorable performances in “Mozart and Papa Haydn”. Writing for this publication about arias she sang from the young Mozart’s Lucio Silla in Finney Chapel at Oberlin, Nicholas Jones said, “Ms. Forsythe gave us a rendition of pyrotechnics…that convinced us of its value, even as we recognized the immaturity of the composer. Staccato arpeggios, long legato lines, a mad scene with its requisite oddities — all were entirely enthralling.”

Not long after that, Forsythe knocked the sox off Boston audiences with her triumphant appearances as Edilia in the 17-year old Handel’s first-ever opera, Almira, at the Boston Early Music Festival in June. The Wall Street Journal critic wrote, “Rage arias steadily gathered steam and exploded: In “Proverai,” she unleashed her fury at the fickle Osman in a torrent of roulades; she reeled him in with her voice and her body, pretending to kiss him, then commandeered his sword and threatened him with it and an even higher and wilder cascade of ornaments.”

We interviewed Amanda Forsythe last year before her Cleveland area performances but wanted to catch up with her again before she returns to sing and record arias by Handel and Rameau with Apollo’s Fire from April 24-27. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

AFJSConductingIn its concerts this weekend, Apollo’s Fire burnt bright with the intensity of the mature Haydn and the brilliance of the young Mozart (not that he was ever old, alas!)

This winter has seen Cleveland’s baroque orchestra presenting “intimate” concerts of Vivaldi and Bach with reduced forces, perhaps for budget reasons. By contrast, this concert assembled a big band—almost thirty instrumentalists—fitting for late 18th-century operatic and symphonic literature. The investment in such a richness of talent paid off in an extraordinary mixture of precision, energy, and richness.

Full string sections were backed by pairs of natural horns and paired woodwinds—baroque bassoons, oboes, and flutes. In Oberlin’s Finney Chapel—acoustically clear and relatively dry—the group could play at faster tempos than in the resonant churches in which Apollo’s Fire normally performs, and with a tighter sense of ensemble.

This was Apollo’s Fire at its best: crisp, exciting, and beautifully transparent. Bass lines energized the music from below; in the middle, inner voices shone through with ease; oboes, flutes, and violins dazzled with rapid and always-varying intricacies. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

FORSYTHE-AmandaSoprano Amanda Forsythe returns to Northeast Ohio and Apollo’s Fire this weekend to sing Haydn and Mozart arias in concerts in Akron, Cleveland Heights and Oberlin, following appearances in Handel’s Messiah (including a recording) and an earlier concert set of excerpts from Mozart operas.

The New York native started out at Vassar College as a marine biology major, then switched to music and went on to pursue a graduate degree in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory. Turned down for NEC’s opera workshop, Forsythe went in search of other singing opportunities and found herself cast in a performance of a Cavalli opera at Harvard, where she met her husband-to-be, conductor and University Organist Edward Elwyn Jones, as well as Boston Baroque director Martin Pearlman.

That launched her extensive career in early music, but before long, she branched out into standard opera roles, making her European debut in Il viaggio a Reims at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Italy and recently appearing in Robert Carsens’s new production of Falstaff at Covent Garden. “It’s fun to do the standard roles,” Forsythe told us phone from Boston. “With early music, you might learn a role and never see the piece again!” Read the rest of this entry »

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