Tag Archives: Rosenblatt Recitals

Ruxandra Donose + Roger Vignoles / Rosenblatt Recitals / Wigmore Hall – 6 October 2014

9 Oct

Donose RosenblattSecond time unlucky for the Rosenblatt recitals as the second one of the new season also had an indisposed singer programmed, so instead of Carmen Giannattasio we had Ruxandra Donose performing, fresh from her triumphant return to the Royal Opera as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and her recent Carmen in Calixto Bieto’s celebrated production at English National Opera.
She explained at the start of the recital that she put together arias and songs she loves despite of any strange leaps in mood. Clearly a deft decision being asked to fill in for another artist at such a short notice and also a great chance to show her taste in repertoire and to display her versatility.

Her two Carmen arias (second as encore) were predictably beautifully executed with impressive ease and sparkle. Hinting at a naughtiness inside but never becoming base and cheap. What was immediately noticeable was her easy going stage manner and personable character. All too frequently singers look so ill at ease on the concert platform without being able to hide behind make up and costume.
Her Offenbach aria was coquettish, sassy she had great fun playing with the text. The letter aria from Werther was a solid attempt at transmitting the sense of sadness and the world closing in. Her dark hued voice used with artistry to convey the mood. 

The three songs by Fauré were a good display of her ability to restrain her exuberance and not smother the material under artifice. So effective she was in evoking the dreamy mood that her Eboli was like a thunderbolt. Her rendition of this old warhorse was captivating, her dark chest voice reflecting the troubled state of mind of the heroine. Despite a certain shortness of breath at the finale she pulled off an impressive end to the first half.

After the interval the programme took a more romantic turn with Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix which was seductive and with a hint of calculation behind the pleasantry. Her use of her dynamic range to colour the aria and its different moods was very effective. A sign of how committed her signing was throughout the evening.

Donose Rosenblatt list

The sets of songs by Enescu and Bretan were beautiful and unfussy. The second set in Romanian was particularly notable for the sheer joy and abandon she invested each one of them. I always relish an artist inserting songs in their native language in a recital as it removes any residual language barrier and allows for direct a communication. Particularly the wistful last two songs were a great display of sensitivity and piano singing. The final Rossini aria showed her agility and her adept coloratura technique. What we maybe lost in not being as quick firing as some was a more rounded sound that caressed the ear at every turn. Humanising what can seem like empty fireworks in the hands of other singers.

The accompaniment by Roger Vignoles was as sprightly and joyful as Donose’s stage presence. Particularly impressive at such short notice and with presumably limited rehearsal time

As you can tell I really enjoyed her performance I was rather excited to see her after her excellent Composer at Covent Garden and she did not disappoint. Her unwavering intensity paired with her musicality were wonderful to see.

Some tweets from the evening

Rosenblatt Recitals 15th season, an overview

4 Sep

Rosenblatt Recitals 15th SeasonIf you have been reading my blog for sometime or follow me on Twitter (there are such masochists out there, I’m told) you will know how much I like attending as many recitals of the Rosenblatt series as possible. For a privately organised, and increasingly high profile, series it is extraordinary that it has reached its fifteenth year. A testament to the dedication of the organisers and now even with a record label to release the recordings. With the relocation a couple of years ago to the Wigmore Hall, they are going from strength to strength and in a venue that is ideal for singers giving, frequently, their first London recitals.

Here’s the run down of all recitalists in the coming season, the prices are very reasonable with a top price of £30, they would make a good starting point for anyone interested in opera and song and haven’t dipped their toe in live performances.

The opening recital by Stephen Costello marks his solo return to this recital series after his UK debut with the Rosenblatts in 2006. He did sing for them in 2008 when he was paired with his wife Ailyn Pérez.

23 September

Stephen Costello + Danielle Orlando

As Stephen Costello was indisposed Javier Camarena has stepped in, for what will be a rather exciting occasion as it marks his UK debut.

Javier Camarena + Enrico Cacciari

6 October

Carmen Giannattasio + Jonathan Papp

6 November

Belén Elvira + Jorge de León + Juan Antonio Lavarez Parejo

3 December

Aida Garifullina + Iain Burnisde

10 February

Saimir Pirgu + Simon Lepper

4 March

Simone Piazzola + Vincenzo Scalera

8 April

Ben Johnson + James Bailleu

19 May

Jessica Pratt + Vincenzo Scalera

8 June

Marcello Giordani + Macri Simone


For detailed information check the dedicated page on the Rosenblatt Recitals website

You can read all my previous blog posts on Rosenblatt recitalists if you so fancy:















Nino Surguladze + Gianluca Marcianò / Rosenblatt Recitals / Wigmore Hall – 10 February 2014

11 Feb

Surguladze Marciano Feb 2014It is sometimes an unpredictable ride when attending a recital. What seemed like a straightforward programme of opera arias in the first half and lieder in the second became a very mixed up affair last night.

What made the biggest impression was Surguladze’s unfussy and confident platform manner. Not the one for too many ridiculous mannerisms or unnecessary overacting. Her presentation was simple and wide open eyed. Unfortunately what let her down was not getting used to the intimate acoustic of the Wigmore Hall. She spent a large part of the first half singing far too loudly and in the process compromising her technique, diction and colouring. The opening Mozart aria was rendered irritating with the excessive vibrato and the forced volume. Thankfully things started to settle mid way and led to two beautiful final arias. It was disappointing that her French was cloudy and a memory lapse mid aria did disturb what was otherwise a gorgeously sung Delila with all the sultry charms, chest voice and warm tone to die for. Her Acerba voluttà was exactly the kind of singing that excites me, full bloodied, open and dramatically involved. What was all too obvious was what a wonderful actress she must be in a fully staged opera.

The second half brought both a music stand on stage and a much more quiet delivery and appropriate interpretation. Her Schubert songs were lovingly delivered but not in the class we are used to at this particular Hall, with Alice Coote being the resident lieder deity. They need a quiet dignity and internalised emotion than only years of stage experience can bring. Given time she could be a compelling lieder interpreter in the future.

The most surprisingly satisfying songs were the three Brahms numbers where she brought glowing girlishness and attentive subtlety that presented her warm voice in the best possible light. Her Georgian encore was also a great showpiece for her glowing dark timbre and flowing legato.

She was accompanied rather beautifully by Gianluca Marcianò taking the night off from conducting an orchestra and playing for his leading lady. He showed to be a natural accompanist displaying  textural variety and rapport. Having seen him conduct beautifully Bellini and Verdi last year I had high expectations and was not disappointed in the slightest. Makes me wish more conductors would accompany singers on the concert platform. As he brought a different sensibility than most professional accompanists which added to a pleasurable evening.

Once more a very enjoyable evening if a bit more mixed in results but this is the drama and excitement of live performance with many variables that can alter its course.

Surguladze Marciano Feb 2014 List

Some tweets from the evening

Calm and blast / Celso Albelo / Rosenblatt Recital Series / Wigmore Hall – 16 September 2013

26 Sep

Celso AlbeloAlongside the opening of the new opera season at London’s Houses comes the opening of the season for the Rosenblatt Recital Series that has been running since 2000. A good spotting ground for up and coming international talent.

I approached the evening with a slight trepidation as my last live experience of him was the 2011 La Sonnambula at the Royal Opera House, his Elvino was the main disappointment of that evening, clearly having a difficult night, looking out of sorts in both style and vocal output.

For this recital the two halves were mainly divided by temperament which made for a slightly odd and too homogeneous programming. But one particular saving grace of this recital series is allowing the singers to make personal choices of songs and arias that reflect their interests and frequently in their native language, allowing them to show a different side from the expected standard rep.

Albelo listAlbelo’s delivery of the brooding at times near lacrimose material in his native tongue was beautifully engaging. His reserved stage personality well in tune with the material. The attention to the words and the soft caress of the melody was a great start and brought out a side to his interpretive capability I hadn’t seen before.

His Pampamapa (Song of the trail) was a great example of his ability to weave the thread of a story with simple means and to keep the audience captivated. His colourful rendition of a meditation on a love affairs that has gone wrong was affecting and not over dramatic. Revealing a sensitive side to our preconceptions of what a lyric tenor is expected to sing in recital. In Ya me voy a retirar (I’m going to go away) he brought a broken simplicity and expressive economy full of  tenderness. Hi El sampedrino (The herdsman) was a meditation on bitterness after the end of a love affair.  The last item of the first half Besos en mis suenos (Kisses in my dreams) was a strange melange of MOR melody and light vocalism that reminded me a musical backdrop for an MGM musical from the 1940s. Breaking a bit the spell cast from all the previous songs.

After the interval things got much more vibrant to maybe the expense of subtlety (a danger with lyric tenors oi).

The first (very loud) song Deten tu lado paso (Don’t take another step) was the exact opposite of all the songs of the first half, the subtlety replaced with volume and overarching ardency.

But maybe the most musically futile and overall problematic number was the solo piano Danza de los Nanigos (Dance of the Negroes) which except for a break for the singer offered very little to the overall recital and the very title of it in the programme made me cringe.

The arias from the Donizetti operas were a great display of his bright tone and firm delivery. Particularly his rendition of Spirto gentil was the crowning achievement of the evening and it’s wonderful to have a video released by the Rosenblatt Recitals organisers for posterity. It was exactly one would wish for, full bloodied Italianate singing with clarity of phrasing and a seamless legato.

His finale with La donna e mobile was a bit of chore for me after having seen a performance of Rigoletto two days earlier and was not quite convinced that he had the arrogance and weaselly malice one needs to be a convincing Duke of Mantua. But it definitely ticked a big box for the fans in the audience.

His two encores were Francesco Cilea’s È la solita storia del pastore  (Act II L’arlesiana) and a short version of  Donizetti’s  Ah mes amis (Act I La Fille du Régiment) which made a suitably sparkly end to the evening and continues a Roseblatt tradition for tenors to sneak in a snippet of La Fille du Régiment in their recital programme. It was funny seeing pianist and singer backstage trying to agree on the second encore after Albelo asked for us to wait for a minute…a good light-hearted end to the recital.

Videos from the performance

Some tweets from the evening

Rosenblatt Recitals on Sky Arts

11 Jun

Faux outrageLast season four Rosenblatt Recitals were recorded for TV broadcast on Sky Arts and the wait is almost over.

All will be shown on Sky Arts 2 HD at 8pm in the following order:

Monday 15 July
Lawrence Brownlee

Monday 22 July
Joel Prieto

Monday 29 July
Dimitra Theodossiou

Monday 5 August
Antonino Siragusa

I was present and blogged on the Dimitra Theodossiou one and am intrigued to see how it will come through on-screen. The recitals provide a platform for an intriguing array of performers and this eclectic line up is no exception.

Heard about the recitals…now get the CD (or download).

21 Mar

Opus Arte / Rosenblatt CoversAny long term readers will know that I am not in the business of selling merchandise for anyone and do avoid promoting commercial ventures. But since I unwittingly was quoted on the press release for Ailyn Pérez’s new CD under the new joint project by Opus Arte and Rosenblatt Recitals, it makes sense to let you know about it. Any attempt to preserve great evenings of music as a memory capsule for the future and a source of enjoyment for the present is surely a worthwhile cause.

Do not be put off by the fact that a major producer of filmed opera and ballet like Opus Arte has not got an operational website. On 2 April they release three discs. Poeme D’Un Jour featuring large part of the fantastic recital Ailyn Pérez gave just over a year ago. The Heart that Flutters featuring the bel canto stalwart Lawrence Brownlee and Songs of the Sea by Anthony Michaels-Moore, who was a very effective Giorgio Germont in the recent ENO Traviata by Peter Konwitschny. The recordings will also be available on iTunes if disc formats are not your bag anymore.

The Rosenblatt Recitals have been running since 2000 and have presented over 130 concerts. In the intervening years they have become the platform for important recital debuts in London for the likes of  Juan Diego Flórez, Joseph Calleja and Vittorio Grigolo. They seem to have a good eye at picking promising singers that are at the beginning of their international career.

If you want to read more about individual recitals here is quite a selection of my blogs over the last couple of years. With the recent move to the Wigmore Hall and now this label deal, it seems this promotion of young talent continues even faster and with more permanent results than ever before. It is expected that 5 to 6 recordings will be released per year.

The next scheduled releases for autumn 2013 will be featuring, Ailish Tynan and Ekaterina Siurina.

Enigma or blankness? / Rosenblatt Recital Series: Dimitra Theodossiou / Wigmore Hall – 12 November 2012

14 Nov

I will have to admit at totally not “getting” this recital. The running order read like the tracklist for an Elena Souliotis CD and yet despite the fact that, Leonora,Desdemona,Anna, Elizabetta,Amelia, Santuzza, Mimi, Tosca and Lady Macbeth all appeared, only one made any impression with a distinct personality or mood. Theodossiou possesses a very interesting dark hued Verdian voice laced with well controlled very pronounced vibrato that can relay the extreme feelings in Verdi’s leading ladies with a surprising ferocity. Unfortunately this recital was lacking  atmosphere which was surprising owing to her considerable stage experience. The recital felt staid and old fashioned, like a slice of nostalgia not helped by her curiously camp stage presence. The long self congratulatory deepest bows also did not help.
When the first note I’ve put down on paper is ‘Hey someone is getting married’ you know you’re in for a strange journey. I do wonder if the lack of ambience can be attributed to the change of pianist from Simone Savina to Elda Laro. Who with her very sedate playing created too extreme a contrast. I know a lot of vocal recital fans would normally complain that the accompanist is too loud but in this instance and with the singer’s large voice the piano sound was drowned most of the time adding very little texture to the aural fabric.

Another aspect that became obvious as the night was progressing, was that programming, just large opera arias and scenes makes for odd recital material. The piano always feels like an approximation for the intricate textures that Verdi and Donizetti had in mind and the expected atmospheric underpinnings were not there, combined with Theodossiou’s fairly blank stage persona and distinct lack of charm on the night it made for a testing evening. I can only attribute it to her not feeling well on the night or being crippled by nerves and compensating by adopting a stage presence not unknown to divas of the pre-war era. The repertoire choices were up there with what Rosa Ponselle would have programmed for a recital in the 1920s and that distinct lack of modernity was the aspect that left me puzzled for evermore.

Starting a recital with Pace, Pace is a serious statement of intent and she pulled it off with great style but badly let down by the over-dramatic and formulaic hand gestures that detracted from the very accomplished singing. Her chest voice is a marvellously vibrant creature of the night, caressing the darker corners of Verdi’s writing with knowing elegance and agreement. But ultimately leaving us puzzled at where was Leonora’s personality in all this. Had she trusted more the delivery with simpler pared down gestures and a more genuine attempt to built audience rapport, instead of the feeling of forced reverence this would have been an absolute show stopper.

Her voice describing the darkest moments of Desdemona’s stage life seemed an inappropriate choice, her far too dark timbre, ever so slightly lightened by heavy use of  her head voice could not mask the lack of sweetness and gentleness that is so important in this part. Having heard the delicious rendition by Ailyn Perez back in March in another Rosenblatt recital and the incredible Anja Harteros at Covent Garden I was left wanting. Intriguingly her sudden 90 degree turn had me worried that she may indeed jump in the piano after the willow song, which thankfully was not to happen!

The programme continued with a very pale Anna Bolena that gave us a hint of how exciting she must be in a darkened opera house, her voice riding the orchestra. Unfortunately in recital the sound felt uneven and at times thin. Again we saw more of madam performing than Anna suffering. The same can be applied to her Elisabetta from Roberto Devereux, sang with panache but lacking in the all important interpretive content. Also the singing was far from perfect with obvious signs of breath control and pitch problems.

By the interval the only way I would describe her stage presence would be with a single Greek word, monolithic. And while being the still centre of a changing world can be a wonderful quality on an operatic stage on the recital platform it just read as blankness. Was pinning my hopes the second half would find her in more relaxed form and would allow for some gusto to creep in.

It was a shame we did not get the wonderfully dark introduction to Ecco l’orrido campo which would have put us in the mood properly, but thankfully her delivery (aside from the camp stage act) was full bloodied  and more characterful than in the first half. She seems to respond to the more histrionic, faster paced arias with much more immediacy and flair.

Her Santuzza was a wonderful sentimental creature and sung with disarming honesty and for the first time in the evening we got to see a bit of herself invested in the music. Her delivery was not flawless but the emotional content and the thrilling climax were a handsome pay off.

We were treated to the preludes of La Traviata and Aida in between the last three items in the programme and a very odd addition they were. Laro’s charming but underpowered delivery, drove a gentleman in front of me back to reading his novel through both her appearances.

Mimi and Tosca may not be the most demanding of operatic roles but they seem to have caused considerable problems for Theodossiou and the evident lack of charm they were sang with left me wondering why she actually chose them for this recital. Her Mimi was imprecise and laboured sounding and Tosca while being reasonably passionate did not pack enough excitement.

Thank heavens for the La luce langue and the darkness and terror it brings, this seemed the natural vehicle for Theodossiou who delivered the goods with true bravado without sacrificing her attention to the text and employed some ingenuous colouring. This was a terrifyingly big voiced Lady Macbeth with a tone of destruction and malice. It was deeply satisfying even though it arrived on the eleventh hour of this recital.

The encore was Puccini’s setting of Salve Regina and she appeared much more relaxed than previously and was able to channel a lot more charm in those three minutes than during the previous hour. Her voice is not the sound Puccini would have expected but it was a good postscript to this in many ways splendid but flawed recital.

The performance was recorded by Sky Arts and will be broadcast in early 2013, looking forward to seeing how she comes across on screen. The live experience was a very variable and at times puzzling affair. Not sure if I should consign her to the enigmatic divas camp or just to the dramatically unaware.

Charm Offensive / Rosenblatt Recital series: Sylvia Schwartz / St John’s Smith Square – 20 June 2012

25 Jun

It was the longest day of the year and a very sunny one at that (shock horror, I know, Londoners) so it was imperative we had a good time during this recital as the all too rare warm day was passing by. And having a singer with a German surname, an English accent and actually of Spanish origin was a conundrum that she even joked, from the stage, about.  This recital exuded sunshine in more than one ways, my companion exclaimed at the tanned physique of Simon Lepper only to wonder if it was fake tan and then the charming and overall winning demeanour of Sylvia Schwartz made for a sunny start. Also cannot remember the last time I’ve seen an opera singer wearing a three strand pearl necklace…a nice  glamorous touch.

The programme of the recital was very promising but the first half was sadly disappointing. Despite the immense beauty of her timbre and her faultless projection she seemed to be pushing too much her upper register straining delivery and sometimes sounding shrill. The first two songs were very demure and some beautifully floated notes in Parisotti’s Se tu m’ami opened the recital with a relaxed and totally charming way, very akin to her wholesome stage presence.

The Gluck maybe not have been accompanied by the most sophisticated piano playing but  O del mio dolce ardor was sang with tenderness and great beauty. Displaying a great understanding of the neo classical nature of the piece.

In total contrast her two Cleopatra arias from Giulio Cesare were too taxing and sang not in the appropriate manner. Having seen Sarah Tynan sing an amazing Cleopatra for Opera North earlier this year I’m afraid she set a high standard. Schwartz’s ornaments just seemed out of place and not in keeping with Handel’s writing, the coloratura passages were dispatched with such constraint that took away the sheer luxury of the sound he demands. This was possibly a choice of repertoire that needs her voice to fully flourish first in the coming years to give her the confidence and the right fuller texture.

Her Ah! non credea mirarti started with great affinity for the melancholic atmosphere of Bellini’s bel canto caper. But unfortunately her languid, gorgeous tone was not a substitute for a solid grasp of how to deploy portamento and legato. The different parts of the aria felt disjointed and some of the smoothness and attention to the linear structure of Bellini’s writing was lost. It was hugely disappointing as she surely has a very beautiful voice but again don’t think she was ready for the stylistic challenges it posed. The first half was meant to have finished with Una voce poco fa, but was announced after the second number that it didn’t fit in the programme, so it was removed.

The second half proved a much more even and thoroughly pleasurable part of the evening. She literally let her hair down and it showed. Her three Rossini songs were a great fit for her voice and her vocalise on the simple, reflective melodies was enchanting. The concluding La promessa was full of longing and childlike purity of spirit.

The following Six Castillian Songs by Guridi were the absolute highlight of the evening, proving once more how important it is for a recitalist to choose material in their native language. The interpretation aspect of them was mature and playful. The conclusion of the first song was soft and light Entra labrador si vienes a verme/Enter, farmer, if you come to see me was just warm and heartfelt. Her opening ¡Sereno!/Nightwatchman! was arresting and clamorous, changing the mood. Once more the piano accompaniment left a lot to be  desired, with attacks sounding too agitated and unbalanced which unfortunately continued on to the next song which was delivered with a sense of drama and poise. Her exclamations mira que el torro te pilla, mira que el torro te coge/don’t let the bull seize you, don’t let the bull catch you filed the church with urgency. The pianissimi in No quiero tus avellanas were delivered with great focus and a sense of grief, reaching a wonderful moment when she spun the line to almost mimic the sound of water while describing it as crystal-clear. The last two songs were much more demure and melancholic bringing out once more the natural charm and ease of Schwartz. A masterly journey through a very picturesque set of songs and impeccable attention to the text, which was greeted with the loudest of cheers.

The final two programmed songs were almost a reminder of the Ailyz Perez recital at the same venue back in March, who sang the Luna song with great spark and girly abandon. Schwartz was animated and added an Iberian piquancy that was a great finale, shame that again the piano playing sounded unfocused. The three encores that followed were by Granados (La maja dolorosa No. 2), Down the Salley Gardens, Britten’s setting of Yeats’ poetry and Turina (Tu pupila es azul). They were  beautifully delivered and gratefully received. Vienna State Opera is very lucky to have her and I am definitely looking forward to listening to her again in the near future.

Some Tweets from the evening

The Caruso complex / Rosenblatt Recital series: Juan Diego Flórez / Royal Albert Hall – 08 May 2012

10 May

I came away from this recital with contradictory feelings, Flórez indeed put a lot of bums on the seats of the Royal Albert Hall but did he in the process make too many concessions to “stadium opera”?

As I tweeted from there, the Royal Albert Hall what it misses in acoustics (and heavens knows some sections have abysmal sound and sightlines) makes up in atmosphere. The very idea of staging a solo recital in a cavernous space like the RAH has more to do with chutzpah than musical enjoyment. The RAH as a rent a night venue has given home in recent months to such classical luminaries as Russell Watson and Katherine Jenkins. Of course the PR and interviews leading up to the recital pointed to Pavarotti being the last tenor to sing a solo recital there (when JDF sang there also during the 2006 Proms). Mind you on two occasions I’ve attended recitals by Montserrat Caballe and Kiri Te Kanawa, but as the ladies had also a guest artist on stage, they don’t count in the narrow definition of solo recital.  Also another notable feature was the age of the audience, this was one of the most elderly audiences I’ve ever seen to either opera or a classical concert. And clearly not one used to the conventions of the genre, as we had numerous instances of flash photography and a few of premature or misplaced clapping. One thing is for sure, a large swathe of the crowd had never listened to Il Pirata. We even got the unusual sight of clapping for the departing orchestra at interval! Nevermind the PR angle and audience…was the evening any good?

The programme reads like a respectable operatic first half, if rather short on singing, while the second half was a zarzuela fest with a heavy dose of smaltz, that late in the career Pavarotti would have loved. From Stalls L Row 4 the sound of the orchestra was very patchy and the acoustic amplified the percussion to such an extent to cover most other instruments. The conducting felt uninspired throughout with the bel canto numbers played with lack of assurance and character.  JDF’s first aria was beautifully sang but distinctly underpowered, from time to time I had to struggle to listen to him and the silly clapping half way didn’t help.

His second aria from La scala di seta was delivered with much more expressive brio and a stronger, more focused projection. He is a Rossini specialist after all.

Then we moved on to Verdi, the orchestral playing of the Overture for Louisa Miller had nothing terribly distinctive about it. This orchestra totally flattened any differences between Bellini, Rossini and Verdi. To be honest I was mercifully waiting for JDF to return and sing Alfredo’s aria from Act 1 of La Traviata, a role that normally would not be within the narrow fach his roles occupy. This was JDF, the unknown quantity and he excelled his delivery was passionate and direct. His vocalising was on the lighter end of the scale but actually full of beauty and thought. I really hope that as his voice is maturing that he will have the chance to assume the role. He was impressive and one almost forgot the distant acoustic and the one poor soul from G Stalls that clapped half way…

After the interval the two zarzuela arias were truly first class. The first one was full of lust and the quest of love made impossible by the circumstances. His more animated expression really set the scene. The lyricism with which he delivered the lines: Son mosquitos que vuelan junto al que duerme y zumbando le obligan a que despierte / They are mosquitoes which fly over those who sleep, and buzzing, force them to wake up was all consuming. The second aria was equally impressive and allowed him to use a much more open tone, singing this celebratory piece full of exclamation and warmth.

After a castagnettes heavy intermezzo from La boda de Luis Alonso we moved on to the lighter than light part of the programme, or shall I call it the Three Tenor section?  Lehar and Brodzsky are such a cliche for this type of concert it was very disappointed that he felt the need to include them. They were executed nicely enough but I’d rather he had spent his time singing more Donizetti, as his final programmed aria from Rita (bizarrely the only time during the evening when he spoke to the audience, just to tell us that the widower in the opera is all too happy to be left alone) the singing was first class again, with a ringing high register and his little comedy acting flourishes that brought the music to life.  A deluge of applause followed with a lot of noise for encores…a very near approximation of a football stadium filled with pensioners.

He sang Ah! Mes amis from Fille and La Donna è mobile from Rigoletto  and topped up with that Three Tenor favourite…Granada. The encores were truly predictable and played on to the audience, but who can actually blame him. This was a night of audience favourites, with an artist at the top of the game, trying to be listened to in a barn. He pleased his fans to no end and even managed to be audible without showing any signs of strain.

I will make sure to add any videos that the good people at Rosenblatt Recitals put out on YouTube in the coming week or so (as there was a camera recording at the back of the Arena on the night).

Brute force / Rosenblatt Recital series: Marina Rebeka / St John’s Smith Square – 18 April 2012

23 Apr

This was one recital that confused me from the outset. The programme was a very strange mix of songs and arias. Making Gounod, Rossini, Fauré, Berlioz, Schubert and Rachmaninov sit together is a balancing act beyond most recitalists and I am afraid this was the case with Marina Rebeka. The voice is impressively well projected but in the first half left me very cold. Technically correct singing and clear projection is a fantastic starting point, but somehow that very impressive technique was the main fault. She sang for most of the recital simply too loudly to be truly enjoyable. The Fauré songs were efficiently delivered but with a tone too strident and at a volume that robbed their intimacy and elegance.

The two arias from Faust were brilliantly detailed and sang but it was disappointing to see her sight reading passages. I wish she had dropped the French art songs and instead have the time to rehearse enough so as not to need the score as reference that was consulted all too frequently.

The choice to excise three songs from Les nuits d’été was another strange gamble. And having heard them a few weeks back beautifully delivered with panache and sweetness by Joyce DiDonato it was a slight disappointment due to the strident tone and the too loud delivery for the venue, especially for the first two songs. For L’île inconnue she did find an appropriately softer delivery and more rounded expression maybe not as dreamy as Joyce but surely a more appropriate feel to it.

Then instead of getting the scheduled Bel raggio lusinghier we got instead a little more Gounod, which actually made sense with the francophone first half of the recital. The fourth Act aria from Roméo et Juliette was delivered with impressive ease, despite the slightly too sharp attacks. It was an impressive display that clearly enthused the audience, I just wished for a bit more depth and warmth.

After the interval we were treated to a change of dress (from dark purple to a dark grey and gold lamé number) and also songs by Schubert and Rachmaninov which were a bit of a mixed bag. The Schubert songs brought forward some of the charm and panache the first half was missing, she delivered Die Forelle with thoughtful reflection and spark. She continued with a melancholic Gretchen which it was a touch too hard driven by the tempo adopted by the accompanist. The concluding song was again delivered with lightness that was rather amusing and not as loudly as most items up to that point.

The programme made far too many apologies for the quality of Rachmaninov’s songs, some were written as a quick earner, some were unfinished. Overall they allowed Rebeka to colour her singing and to find a rounder tone and at the lower volume it was almost like listening to a different singer. The dramatic melodies fitted her voice very well. The material was indeed slight but delivered with much more winning attitude (despite the melodramatic overacting during Kak mne bol’no). The second half collectively made it clear what the first half could have been if scaled down a notch.

After  thunderous applause, she treated us to Bel raggio as an encore. And it was rather beautiful, if again over projected and lacking a bit in colour. Marina Rebeka is a great talent, but she needs to know when to scale down her performance in more intimate surroundings. I love a really bold, accurately projected voice, as long as it does not impair characterisation or the shading and phrasing.

She will be singing Lucia di Lammermoor in a new production at the Latvian National Opera and can imagine over a big orchestra and in costume she will be a unmissable spectacle. Just somehow in recital she was not as engaging and enthralling as someone so richly talented should have been.

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