Whatever happened to Christophe Dumaux? I recall seeing him in comprimario countertenor roles some years ago, and noticed him on several Baroque opera recordings, but never quite registered his performance. More fool me. His appearance at this recital in the 2019 Göttingen Handel Festival was electrifying, dazzling, completely stunning, showing a mature singer at the top of his game with great technique and depth of interpretation not to mention golden tone. The concert comprised a number of Handel arias interspersed with instrumental works by Bach and Telemann as well as Handel, played by the inimitable FestspielOrchester Göttingen (FOG) under their beloved maestro Laurence Cummings.

Christophe Dumaux
© Alciro Theodoro da Silva

Polinesso’s aria ‘Dover, giustizia, amor’ from Ariodante was the opener, played at a good brisk tempo, displaying Dumaux’s clean attack and with great cadenzas at the beginning and end of the da capo. This was followed by the highly contrasting ‘Pompe vane di morte … Dove sei?’ for Bertarido in Rodelinda, beginning with a beautiful messa di voce and featuring excellent diction and real feeling.

Then came the first orchestral work, Telemann’s Concerto in F major for three violins, TWV 53:F1 from Tafelmusik, whose opening Allegro bears great similarity to ‘The arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ in Solomon, composed by Handel some 15 years after the Telemann. Otherwise it was a sprightly intricate work, in which concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock displayed virtuoso playing and evident enjoyment.

© Alciro Theodoro da Silva

The other instrumental works at later points of the concert were Handel’s Concerto Grosso in C minor, HWV 326 and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no.3. The former features six movements including dance movements, contains allusions to the operas Agrippina and Giulio Cesare (‘Piangerò’), and was played, as usual, with energy and commitment. The Bach was a welcome treat with more great violin work from Blumenstock, great resolutions in the first Allegro and a controlled but wild ride in the final movement.

Returning to the vocal riches on offer, Goffredo’s ‘Sorge nel petto’ from Rinaldo, basically a continuo aria with an oboe obbligato (Susanne Regel) and a violin solo also showed Dumaux’s ability to sing straight out of an open throat with no sound of covering. ‘Ah stigie larve’ illustrated brilliantly Orlando’s descent into madness and concluded the first half.

Cesare’s plaint on being delivered from a watery grave, ‘Aure, deh, per pietà’ began with another great mezza di voce and was delivered with great legato but crisp articulation when called for. The arias ‘Fammi Combattere’ (Orlando), ‘Spero per voi’ (Polinesso in Ariodante) and ‘Già l’ebro mio ciglio’ (Orlando) demonstrated Dumaux’s exquisite coloratura and wonderful cadenzas across a range of moods, culminating in Egeo’s aria ‘Voglio stragi, e voglio morte’ from Teseo, with more bravura delivery and a totally rafter-ringing cadenza. Only one encore – the audience could clearly have coped with more – comprised ‘Cor ingrato’ from Rinaldo. I will certainly be paying much more attention to Dumaux the next time I have the opportunity to hear him.