ROH’s JPYA Summer Performance 2014
Speaking of Donizetti and Mozart, the Jette Parker Young Artists put on one act from each composer for their Summer Performance. I went on a whim with opera buddy and got bargain floor tickets from a kindly couple. It was a first time in the ROH stalls for the both of us. Compared to where I usually sit I’d say the sound was more compact, for want of a better word. I was afraid I’d be spoiled from now on (more leg room! better views even with tall people in front of you!) and turn up my nose at the lower slips but I think I’ll live until such time as ROH stages Clemenza again.
La favorite Act I
Inès: Anush Hovhannisyan
Léonor: Nadezhda Karyazina
Fernand: Luis Gomes
Balthazar: Jihoon Kim
Conductor: Paul Wingfield | Welsh National Opera Orchestra
It turns out La favorite isn’t the kind of opera whose Act I works well on its own. It feels unbalanced, unfinished and underwhelming. The only way it stands is as a vehicle for a tenor star in the making, which is the way it was intended here. Luis Gomes was very committed as a belcanto hero and did a nice job vocally, well suited for this repertoire. Maybe not the most remarkable voice but an agile and convincing lyric tone. I remembered bass Jihoon Kim from small roles in other productions (such as La traviata, where he sang Dr Grenvil) for his recognizable timbre. A beautiful voice to my ears. Here he did well, although I thought he needed more work on his projection and definitely on his pronunciation. Then again, French. I wonder why they didn’t go for the Italian version. The ladies were all right. Hovhannisyan (known to me as the Voice of the Falcon in Die Frau ohne Schatten) fared better as Inès than Karyazina did as Léonor, which is a bit odd. The again, Léonor has precious little and more dramatic than melodic to sing in this act whereas Inès has the fun bit with the choir of maids. The choir was amateur and didn’t do badly as such. Wingfield conducted very dramatically and occasionally the orchestra tended to cover the singers. Although a tad underwhelmed, I was pleased to see a bit of La favorite, as I’m a big fan of O mio Fernando and I always enjoyed what I heard on the few occasions I listened to it. Maybe ROH decides to stage it for good at some point?
Così fan tutte Act I
Despina: Dušica Bijelić
Fiordiligi: Kiandra Howarth
Dorabella: Rachel Kelly
Ferrando: David Butt Philip
Guglielmo: Michel de Souza
Don Alfonso: Ashley Riches
Conductor: Michele Gamba | Continuo: David Syrus | Welsh National Opera Orchestra
For its part, Cosi‘s Act I does very well on its own. It certainly follows the buffa recipe of giving plenty of individual opportunity to all its 6 characters, plus sprinkled duets and ensembles, ending with a cliffhanger of sorts. The direction was rather clever and funny, with some foreshadowing during Guarda, sorella. De Souza (Guglielmo) and Riches (Don Alfonso) were particularly good actors. I thought Riches carried the whole thing. He’s got a lot of star power (very natural on stage) and a secure, well projected voice. The women weren’t bad either. Howarth (Fiordiligi) can project like nobody’s business. She can afford to hold back a bit, in fact. Kelly (Dorabella) has a rather neat mezzo timbre and did a good job at conveying Dorabella’s easily tempted nature. I wasn’t particularly taken with Bijelić’s (Despina) tone and the way she did the Docspina bit but that could’ve been me. Gamba’s conducting wasn’t bad at all, light and fun.
I kinda liked this sort of aperitif opera afternoon, with one act from this opera, one act from that opera. I might even agree to see some Wagner this way 😉