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Reviews

25 Nov 2019

Exceptional song recital from Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

Thanks to the enterprise and vision of Lynton Atkinson - Artistic Director of Dorset-based Hurn Court Opera - two promising young singers on the threshold of glittering careers gave an outstanding recital at Salisbury’s prestigious Art Centre.

Hurn Court Opera at Salisbury Arts Centre

A review by David Truslove

Above: Siân Dicker

Photo: Sebastian Charlesworth

 

Established in 2017, Hurn Court Opera was founded to give performance opportunities and showcase emerging young soloists at the start of their professional careers. Achievements so far include critically acclaimed productions of Die Zauberflöte and Acis and Galatea, along with two influential competitions that have produced a wealth of talented singers, some of whom are already making their mark on the operatic stage.

Siân Dicker (soprano) and Michael Lafferty (baritone), both former prize winners of the scheme, devised a tour d’horizon of English song, lieder and operatic excerpts under the banner ‘A Shropshire Lad and a Wiltshire Lass’, the whole accompanied by rising pianist and conductor Ashley Beauchamp. Familiar and seldom-performed songs framed an intriguing cocktail of comic, poignant and whimsical offerings to form a compelling evening that could have found an equally attentive audience in London’s Wigmore Hall.

Both singers, already equipped with considerable experience in opera, oratorio and recital work conveyed admirable poise, intelligent musicianship and flawless techniques. They also possessed an easy rapport with the audience in spoken introductions claiming rapt attention while clearly inhabiting differing musical personalities. This last was most evident in the two Mozart duets where Siân Dicker was a feisty Pamina and Michael Lafferty an earnest Papageno in ‘Bei Männern’ ( Die Zauberflöte). It was handsomely sung, as was ‘Là ci darem la mano’ (Don Giovanni), the latter convincing for the not-so innocent protests of Dicker as Zerlina to Lafferty’s seductive Giovanni.

Michael Lafferty.jpgMichael Lafferty. Photo credit: Sebastian Charlesworth.

There was no doubt about Dicker’s full throttle engagement, with each song oozing characterful expression, vividly so in Libby Larsen’s witty ‘Pregnant’, Mendelssohn’s ‘Hexenlied’ and Walton’s jazzy ‘Old Sir Faulk’, all dashed off with dramatic flair that bodes well for future operatic projects. She was in her element for Jonathan Dove’s ‘Adelaide’s Wedding’ (The Enchanted Pig) where she managed to combine a haughty grandeur somewhere between Mozart’s Queen of the Night and Hyacinth Bouquet. The song could almost have been written for Dicker. But despite ample tones, gorgeously rich in the middle and fruity at the bottom, I would have liked to have heard something less ‘produced’ for Lisa Lehman’s whimsical ‘There are fairies at the bottom of our garden’.

Where Michael Lafferty began warmly yet somewhat diffidently, his well-upholstered baritone found expressive outlet in songs by Otto Nicolai, Duparc and Schubert. But it was in George Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad (the most substantial group of songs in the programme) where he found his form. There was melting warmth in ‘Loveliest of trees’, swagger in ‘The lads in their hundreds’ and sepulchral tone for ‘Is my team ploughing?’ Best of all was the wonderfully evocative ‘Sicilienne’ by Giacomo Meyerbeer, sung with demonstrable affection and involvement.

Throughout the evening, accompanist Ashley Beauchamp was a sensitive collaborator with a chameleon-like ability to adapt to the numerous musical styles crowding this generously conceived programme.

David Truslove

Siân Dicker (soprano), Michael Lafferty (baritone), Ashley Beauchamp (piano)

Salisbury Arts Centre; Thursday 21st November 2019.

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