Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

The Royal Opera House lets everyone in on the act

The Royal Opera House today opens the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Bampton Classical Opera Goes to the Ball

I wonder if Cinderella realised that when she found her Prince she would also find international fame, becoming not just a Princess but also a global celebrity and icon. The glass slipper, placed loving on her shapely foot, has graced theatres, variety halls, cinema screens and opera houses - even postage stamps - and the perennial popularity of this rags-to-riches fairy-tale, in which innocence and goodness triumph over injustice and oppression, shows no signs of waning.

Glyndebourne announces new Artistic Director

Stephen Langridge has been appointed Artistic Director of Glyndebourne. Stephen is currently Director for Opera and Drama at Gothenburg Opera, Sweden, a role he has occupied for five years. He will take up his new role at Glyndebourne in spring 2019.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

The Moderate Soprano : Q&A with Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam

Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam play Audrey Mildmay and John Christie in David Hare’s play The Moderate Soprano which is currently at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London.

Soprano Nadine Sierra Wins the 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award

Soprano Nadine Sierra has been named the winner of the 13 th annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera.

The Grand Tour: A European Journey in Song

The seventeenth Oxford Lieder Festival (12-27 October 2018) will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song and will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural influences.

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago to Premiere Fellow Travelers—A Preview

On 17 March 2018 Lyric Opera of Chicago will premiere the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears (with a libretto by Greg Pierce, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. Mallon’s 2007 novel offered fresh perspectives on the paranoiac investigations of McCarthy-era Washington, DC, through the lens of a gay relationship.

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

Handel in London: 2018 London Handel Festival

The 2018 London Handel Festival explores Handel’s relationship with the city. Running from 17 March to 16 April 2018, the Festival offers four weeks of concerts, talks, walks & film screenings explore masterpieces by Handel, from semi-staged operas to grand oratorio and lunchtime recitals.

Dartington International Summer School & Festival: 70th anniversary programme

Internationally-renowned Dartington Summer School & Festival has released the course programme for its 70th Anniversary Summer School and Festival, curated by the pianist Joanna MacGregor, that will run from 28th July to 25th of August 2018.

The Schumanns at home: Temple Song 2018

Following their marriage, on 12th September 1840, Robert and Clara Schumann made their home in a first-floor apartment on the piano nobile of a classical-style residence now known as the Schumann House, on Inselstraße, just a short walk from the centre of Leipzig.

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Chris Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]
07 Apr 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

London: Sue Loder reviews Alessandro and the Handel Singing Final

G. F. Handel: Alessandro (HWV 21)

Alessandro: Christopher Lowrey; Rossane: Susanna Hurrell; Lisaura: Sarah-Jane Brandon; Tassile: Ben Williamson; Clito: James Oldfield; Leonato: John McMunn; Cleone: Rosie Aldridge. Laurence Cummings, conductor. William Relton, director. Cordelia Chisholm, designer. London Handel Orchestra. Adrian Butterfield, leader

Above: Chris Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]

 

President Obama and Prime Minister Brown have been smiling from the front pages of all the newspapers after the G20 London Summit, and London’s parks are looking their vernal best in warm April sunshine. Enough to put even the dourest music lover in a good mood? Perhaps, but not remotely necessary after two consecutive evenings of exhilarating vocal accomplishment in the capital, and both times with singers with their careers still in front of them.

The ever-stimulating London Handel Festival has always been a launch pad for young singers just starting out on that difficult phase of their careers between graduate studies and professional contracts, and their annual opera at the Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre this week, Handel’s Alessandro, this year came up trumps with no less than four very impressive young artists.

William Relton’s lively, almost cocky, production set in an Oxbridge in the mid 1930’s was full of sexual and political energy, not to mention tongue-in-cheek humour, and the young performers carried it all off with aplomb with some nicely detailed acting from both major and minor roles (the rugger scrums to freeze-frame strobes particularly effective). But with Handel it must always be the singing, the singing, and the singing that matters most and it was the high vocal standards that kept the very long first Act spinning along in a way that defied the clock.

At the bottom of the vocal scale was the warm, dark, yet agile bass baritone of James Oldfield, who brought both a calm dignity and emotional depth to his role as the loyal but morally-troubled captain, Clito. He was matched in vocal expression and stylish singing by the two rival princesses for Alessandro’s love, the sopranos Susanna Hurrell (Rosanne) and Sarah-Jane Brandon (Lisaure). Hurrell has a soubrettish clarity and pin-accurate style that revelled in the virtuosic coloratura, whilst Brandon displayed an impressively warm, creamy tone with power in reserve that will, with care, take her far.

These two soprano roles were of course sung at the premiere in London in 1726 by the Royal Academy’s famous “rival queens”, Cuzzoni and Bordoni, but they didn’t have all the hype and publicity to themselves as the title role was sung by the equally celebrated alto castrato, Senesino. The role of Handel’s soldier-king Alessandro (Alexander the Great whose empire reached to India in the east) takes some singing, and at first sight the young (he looks about sixteen, but obviously isn’t) American countertenor Christopher Lowrey seemed mis-matched to the role. That is until he opened his mouth, and started to dominate the stage. This young singer has that rare quality in this voice-type: a properly produced, strong warm tone, with no hint of that archetypal “English” hooty and constrained sound that is still too frequently found. His top seems limited at this stage, but his mid-range is well-supported and capable of some beautiful sounds. Perhaps just as important for any future operatic career is his obvious delight in being on stage and his ability to hold the eye – not always obvious in other young singers at this level. A Handelian star in the making one hopes.

SarahJaneBrandon&Lowrey&Hur.gifSarah-Jane Brandon (Lisaura), Christopher Lowrey (Alessandro) and Susanna Hurrell (Rossane) with cast [Photo by Chris Christodoulou]

The supporting roles were all competently and affectingly sung by Ben Williamson, Rosie Aldridge (a notable “revenge” aria in Act Two) and John McMunn, and the Chorus made the most of their rugby-as-warfare opportunities. All were supported throughout by the resident London Handel Orchestra under Laurence Cummings, who played with verve and style, notwithstanding some dynamic imbalance in the wind section in Act Two.


London Handel Singing Competition

Turning to singing as a blood-sport, each year Handel’s own church of St. George’s, Hanover Square, fills with a crowd of dyed-in-the-wool Handelians anxious to assess this crop of Finalists, and even more determined to match their skills against those of the official Jury. As ever, this included the cream of English baroque specialists past and present – John Mark Ainsley, Christian Curnyn, Catherine Denley, Gillian Fisher, Michael George and, as Chairman, Ian Partridge.

Ruby%20Hughes%20web[1].gifRuby Hughes, winner of the London Handel Singing Competition [Photo courtesy of London Handel Festival]

In recent years, the standard of singing has risen consistently with some outstanding young artists emerging to confirm burgeoning careers: Andrew Kennedy, Iestyn Davies and Lucy Crowe to name just three. This time around there was a fascinating imbalance in the voice-types reaching the semi-finals which may indicate merely a quirk of fashion, or may be something to worry about: where are all the tenors and baritones? We know that Handelian tenor roles of note are less than numerous, but surely there are ample opportunities for a good low voice to enjoy? This year it seems, the sopranos and countertenors ruled the roost.

Semi finalists:

David Allsopp counter-tenor
Michal Czerniawski counter-tenor
Gary Crichlow counter-tenor
Ruby Hughes soprano
George Humphreys baritone/bass
Anna Huntley mezzo-soprano
Annabel Mountford soprano
Sarah Power soprano
Alexandra Rawohl mezzo-soprano
Elinor Rolfe Johnson soprano
Kirstin Sharpin soprano
Luanda Siqueira soprano
Belinda Williams mezzo-soprano
Owen Willetts counter-tenor
Lisa Wilson soprano

Finalists:

Gary Crichlow counter-tenor
Anna Huntley mezzo-soprano
Ruby Hughes soprano
Luanda Siqueira soprano
David Allsopp counter-tenor

As it happened, on the night, all five singers had to work under some difficulty as there was an unfortunate sudden collapse of an audience member which necessitated urgent medical attention and held up proceedings for over 35 minutes. The eventual winner of both the Adair (First) Prize and the Audience Prize (for once there was no difference of opinion) was clearly not a difficult choice for the jury: young Ruby Hughes, soprano, showed a professionalism and vocal finish in her programme which stood out head and shoulders above her rivals. Her larger instrument, with a warm, bright tone that was even through the range, enabled an expressive delivery that drew every bit of drama from her choices from Theodora, Giulio Cesare, Jephtha and Samson. Anna Huntley, mezzo-soprano, was the worthy second prize winner and lacked just a little in volume and projection compared to Hughes, despite some lovely detailed work and judicious use of vibrato.

Sue Loder © 2009.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):