2015 Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

Betrothal and Betrayal

was the title of this outing. This made me think of how many operas contain weddings or betrothals or at least reference such events significantly. Well, most of them – certainly most (all?) of Mozart’s. Likewise, there is a betrayal somewhere if there’s going to be a plot.

Last year the JPYA Summer Performance was focused on one act each from La favorite and Cosi fan tutte. This year it was structured on scenes from Simon Boccanegra, Adriana Lecouvreur, Les pecheurs de perles, La damnation de Faust and Romeo et Juliette. For more variety it started off with a very energetic rendition of the overture to Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (conducted by Jonathan Santagada). Last year the sets and costumes were more adventurous, this year they were old school literal.

Simon Boccanegra (Verdi)

Amelia Grimaldi: Anush Hovhannisyan
Amelia’s maidservant: Rachel Kelly
Gabriele Adorno: Samuel Sakker
Pietro: Yuriy Yurchuk
Jacopo Fiesco: James Platt
Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths

Anush Hovhannisyan had the misfortune to start off proceedings and thus her very solid performance went without applause. In the light of the public’s later exuberance this was quite sad. I for one thought she was the best thing of the afternoon and I’m no Boccanegra fan. It was a difficult thing to sing and she showed poise and style. James Platt was also strong as Fiesco, not bad at all at portraying old age and a secretive nature.

Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)

Adriana: Nelly Miricioiu
Mlle Jouvenot: Lauren Fagan
Mlle Dangeville: Rachel Kelly
Poisson: Luis Gomes
Abbe de Chazeuil: Samuel Sakker
Michonnet: Yuriy Yurchuk
Quinault: James Platt
Prince de Bouillon: Jihoon Kim
Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths
Celeste: Colin J. Scott

This was the bit I was most excited by and it proved satisfyingly complex, giving most everyone in the program something to do. Let us not forget that the work will return to ROH in the not so distant future. Until then, the youth squad led by mentor Miricioiu took an entertaining stab at it.

In spite of the pizzazz, it was pretty much a showcase of Yurchuk’s considerable skills. He has a beautiful tone which he employed carefully, coping very well with the length and complexity of his part (Michonnet continues to love Adriana even after he realises she only cares for him as a friend because how can any one of us music fans not love the people who take us beyond ourselves via music?). With Miricioiu, whom I have not heard live before and was quite curious about, I appreciated the great ease of working with the orchestra. There were moments where they blended so well together, it underscored just what Michonnet was going on about in his monologue.


Les pecheurs de perles (Bizet)

Leila: Lauren Fagan
Zurga: Samuel Dale Johnson
Conductor: Michele Gamba

This was the public’s favourite bit, with Johnson the big star of the afternoon – mid-aria ovations and all. I was baffled by such ardent enthusiasm, especially given that their duet put some strain on my ears (projection is important but I’m more of a fan of colour of which I hardly detected any). I know parents, lovers and friends make up the bulk of the public at these shows but we all have turn-ons and turn-offs and I’m afraid I’m no fan of either’s tone.

La damnation de Faust (Berlioz)

Marguerite: Rachel Kelly
Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths

This one was practically unstaged, just mezzo Rachel Kelly singing D’amour l’ardente flamme in front of the curtain. Having seen her a number of times now, I don’t think this choice was the best showcase of her current skills. Whereas her performance a few months back as Zaida in Il turco in Italia left a very positive impression on me, her take on Marguerite’s big aria sounded dull and inexpressive.

Romeo et Juliette (Gounod)

Juliette: Kiandra Howarth
Romeo: Luis Gomes
Frere Laurent: James Platt
Conductor: Paul Wynne Griffiths

The tomb scene is practically identical to the one Bellini wrote for his Capuleti. Since I know that scene very well, I had time to compare and contrast. I am aware this is the better known opera, but as far as I am concerned Gounod’s take on this scene is vastly inferior to Bellini’s.

First off, I felt the music unmemorable, Romantic opera by numbers. Then there’s the silliness/sentimentality of the libretto. It might be the first time Bellini compares favourably when it comes to this. Here Romeo enters the Capuleti resting place and says “what a beautiful crypt!” For real?! Comparatively, Bellini’s take on the tomb scene is filled with sadness and dread, even creepiness. As it should be, says I. In Gounod’s version, Romeo consumes the poison but when Juliette wakes up, he appears to have completely forgotten his predicament for a good few minutes whilst they frolic. Then, when Juliette realises he is going to die, he consoles her with cheesy platitudes along the lines of “it’s ok if we die, angels will watch over us“. Jesus wept.

The singing wasn’t bad. I’d heard all three of them before, with James Platt already being a voice I’m keeping an eye out for. He didn’t have much here but he didn’t disappoint. Luis Gomes’ voice seems to favour these earnest types (last year he was Fernand in La favorite) but considering the music was rather boring I don’t have much else to say. Prior to the tomb scene, Howarth sang the aria where Juliette is steeling herself to take the poison. I think out of the 2-3 times I’ve heard her so far this was my favourite. The role suited her voice and the rendition was convincing.

Can’t say I had objections to the conducting since I am mostly unfamiliar with these works (they belong to the period of music I am least attracted to, known as after 1840, before 1910). But you never know what you might like when exposed to live. For instance I enjoyed the Boccanegra excerpt a lot more than I imagined I would.

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on July 19, 2015, in french opera, live performances, romantic opera, royal opera house and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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