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Recently in Performances

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

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Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

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Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

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Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Monsters and Marriage at the Aix Festival

Plus an evening by the superb Modigliani Quartet that complimented the brief (55 minutes) a cappella opera for six female voices Svadba (2013) by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic (b. 1968). She lives in Canada.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

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Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

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Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

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Richard Strauss: Arabella

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Performances

The Handel Singing Competition
25 Apr 2007

Handel Singing Competition Final – London April 23rd

Once again, George Frederick Handel’s old stamping ground of St. George’s Hanover Square, London, resounded last night to the sound of his music as aspiring young singers from all over the world fought out the Final of the London Handel Singing Competition.

Handel Singing Competition Final – London
23 April 2007

 

Year on year the competition’s status has grown and this was reflected last night in both the quality of the singing, and the quantity of audience there to listen – the place was packed with keen Handelians of all ages, music agents, directors and critics. Some sixty original young performers had started out on the audition and knock-out rounds, so the final six singing last night had made it through against considerable opposition and it showed. What was perhaps most interesting of all was perusing the contestant’s resumés and noting that two came from Australia, one from South Africa, one from Portugal and one from Eire.

As with all competitions, what the judges are looking for is not always what is appreciated most by the audience, but at least the London Handel one acknowledges this with both 1st and 2nd prizes and also an Audience Prize, given to the singer who gains the most votes in a quick-fire ballot taken immediately after the singing stops. Last night overall victory went to the only baritone singing, Derek Welton, the possessor of a fine, robust instrument who concentrated his fire on shorter oratorio and anthem pieces, with only one excerpt from an opera. His singing was focused and exact and technically very secure, his wider experience showing, even if he was rather wooden in his character portrayals. At the other end of the male vocal scale, and receiving the 2nd prize, was the countertenor Christopher Ainslie who conversely concentrated on Handel’s great arias for castrato from Serse, Orlando and Tamerlano. His rather elegantly “English” voice, although slightly covered at times, was complemented by a pleasing stage presence and flair for interpretation. For the ladies, it came as no surprise when the Audience Prize was bestowed on the charming Irish soprano, Anna Devin. Her strong interpretive skills were matched by a strong, secure technique and beautiful vocal tone and she shone in her two arias from Alcina and Giulio Cesare.

The losing competitors had nothing to be ashamed of – they all sang with credit and commitment and with great promise for the future: Gilliam Ramm, Joana Seara, sopranos and Julia Riley, mezzo-soprano. The first named had a big voice, perhaps lacking a little in Handelian style but impressive nevertheless, Seara from Portugal sang with delightful delicacy and precision, without too much power however, and Riley seemed to suffer a little from nerves and a rather odd choice of repertoire in her first items which hardly showed her voice off as they might. Her final aria from Ariodante showed glimpses of what she may be capable of in time.

As usual all the young singers were accompanied by the very supportive and elegant London Handel Orchestra, guided by Laurence Cummings.

© Sue Loder 2007

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