Handel: Joseph and his Brethren
…That’s when Sherezade Panthaki decided to kick everything up another notch. Maybe three.
In a single aria, the aptly titled “Prophetic raptures swell my breast,” the soprano gave the audience in Herbst Theatre on Thursday, Dec. 14, the kind of magical musical experience we will be remembering and revisiting for years. It was an electrifying, gorgeous display of strong but crystalline tone, sinuous phrasing, astonishing pyrotechnics, and high notes followed by higher notes.
The aria was as varied as it was brilliant — now calling for shimmery, intimate melody, now for brightly athletic coloratura. And it went on and on, as if each artistic climax were simply a new challenge to be outdone, a test of how much beauty and virtuosity could be packed into several minutes’ worth of music.
When it was over, the audience burst into frenzied and extended applause, an admixture of thrilled exhaustion. Until that moment, we had been politely holding our expressions of appreciation until the end of individual acts, but it was obvious to everyone in the hall that this was not the time to stand on ceremony.
Panthaki has thankfully become a regular presence in Philharmonia concerts over the past few years, but — as with the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson before her — it becomes increasingly difficult to find words that will adequately convey the multifold splendor of her singing. It is full-bodied and rich in coloration, yet her phrases move with all the litheness and grace of a dancer.
She reaches notes that other singers can only eye with envy, and does so with effortless precision. She tears through the most demanding passagework without batting an eye or missing a beat. Her diction is flawless. She’s a phenomenon, and only getting more marvelous with each passing year.
…the Indian soprano Sherezade Panthaki sang her most daring and brilliant aria in this performance of Haendel’s “Samson” — and thereby totally delighted colleagues and audience alike….No wonder that this woman — according to the libretto — slays seemingly invincible Samson’s strength: with her exuberant virtuosity, with her elegance and her powerful radiance, Panthaki is a new, trailblazing type among the female singers of old music — she is a highly dramatic soprano of the Baroque, an “Isolde” in one of Haendel’s oratorios. When she sings, it is not simply an aria, it is an event.
(English Translation: Christoph Schlechter)
Handel: Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day
…the evening’s chief glory was the radiant singing of soprano Sherezade Panthaki — a breathtaking combination of expressive ardor, tonal clarity, technical mastery and dramatic vividness.
Panthaki has been a regular guest with Philharmonia in recent years, and her appearances are always cause for celebration. But even by those lofty standards, this was one for the books.
She endowed Handel’s phrases with a nobility that did nothing to lessen their communicative grace. She negotiated the long and sometimes awkward melodic leaps that are scattered throughout the score without missing or fudging a note, yet she did it with enough fluidity that the effect never seemed angular. And her tone — lush, focused, full of iridescent colorings — was exquisite throughout.
Cecilia herself could only have been proud.
Panthaki often sang with straight tone, a drier low range, and astounding, gleaming-like-a-knife strength on top. An odd vocal match with Bell in the duet, to be sure, but oh so enjoyable as her character flirted seductively with Bell, and he could not help but blush with bemusement.
When she sang solo in praise of St. Cecilia, Panthaki’s sincerity was palpable, and her trill superb. In her “soft complaining flute” duet with flawless flautist Stephen Schultz, she may have chosen to leave all softness to the instrument, but her rise to the top of her range was marvelous. Of special note was her perfect, non-showy, rapid coloratura in the air, “Orpheus could lead the savage race.” Hers is not a virginal sound, but when she and the chorus sang, “The trumpet shall be heard on high,” like a trumpet she did resound.
Rameau: Les Indes Galantes
The saving grace of this concert was soprano Sherezade Panthaki, who brought a silky legato tone and impeccable intonation to the role of the Indian princess, Zima. In her final showpiece, “Regnez, Plaisirs et Jeux,” she had more than enough sound to fill the hall with a laser-like precision. The embellishments added to the final section were brilliant, including a polished high note at the end.
Haydn: L’isola disabitata
There is little doubt, however, that Soprano Sherezade Panthaki had stolen the show, with her acting as well as her singing. The part itself demands much in the way of range and dynamics, but more in the way of emotional variance. Being the most innocent, Silvia embodies a kind of “wild child” phenomenon; she drifts from unfettered joy to intense compassion, fear, lust, and love, all within the comparatively short operatic timeframe of 90 minutes. In this sense, Panthaki’s awe-inspiring performance had infused an operetta-class production with opera-class quality, and her arias likewise seemed to elevate the audience [temporarily] above the comic gags, and to supply the narrative with most of its emotional weight.
Sherezade Panthaki’s Silvia was marvelous: the full evolution of her character was reflected in singing that moved from light sweetness to exuberant, vigorous sensuality. In her artistry, Panthaki made her Silvia a young woman with neither inhibition nor fear; Panthaki took every possible risk with Haydn’s music and made it all feel like happiness in the process of being discovered.
As Sylvia, Ms. Panthaki owned the central stretch of this two-act opera, singing with radiant tone and a brilliant upper register that thrilled the audience. Haydn’s wit and sparkle was lavished on this character, who arrived on the island as a baby and grew up an innocent. Mr. Crawford injected wit and spark;e into the orchestral accompaniment. One could feel the composer’s sympathy with her character’s comic plight, a welcome contrast to the gloomy, suicidal attitude of her sister.
Calgary Bach Festival
No one in attendance will forget the radiant, pure singing of Sherezade Panthaki, an Anna Netrebko of baroque music. With a beautiful, clear voice, perfect tuning, and unstoppable virtuosity, she was impressive in everything she sang, from heartfelt arias by Stefani and Kuhnau to the Italianate eloquence of Bach’s solo cantata Non sa che sia dolore and the final Stabat Mater of Pergolesi in its Bach transcription.
Handel: L’allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
The delightful dances outnumber the penseroso passages, the greatest of which is the echo-duet of the nightingales (Maile Okamura, Lauren Grant) accompanied by the ravishing voice of Sherezade Panthaki, whose high notes bloom in out-of-this-world radiance.
Handel, Lully, Rameau with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
The programme began with Handel’s Laudate Pueri Dominum, a celebratory cantata he wrote while in Rome. The virtuosic work was operatic in its demands on the soloist, orchestra and choir. Soprano Sheherezade [sic] Panthaki had breathtaking technique in her melismatic sections and her voice soared in its upper range…Once again Panthaki, Gagné and Woody both in solos and together, demonstrated why they are each in demand internationally for historically informed performances; they sang with intelligence, virtuosity and expressiveness.
With the backing of the full Tafelmusik Orchestra, the evening offered an early dramatic work of George Frideric Handel (1865-1759), Laudate pueri, composed in Rome, probably in 1706, before the young German composer moved to England. The soloist is soprano Sherezade Panthaki, who was a treat the whole evening.In Tafelmusik’s early years, back when musicians were still finding their sea legs in the alternate universe of period performance, it was smaller voices that dominated. They were characterised by their pure, vibrato-free sound. And, just as the choir itself has grown in its ability to sing out a wider ranger of colours and textures, Panthaki demonstrated how bigger, lusher voices can also dance nimbly around the technical requirements of Baroque runs and musical ornaments.
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Two characters became clear to me in a way they weren’t in 1996: the paradoxical Sorceress, whose hatred of delight delights us, and Belinda, Dido’s confidante. As danced by the motherly Michelle Yard and sung by the richly resonant Sherezade Panthaki, Belinda was the story’s rock, the beneficent spirit who enables not only the evening’s joy but Morris’ shattering close.