Monday, 10 August 2020

The close of an amazing season, and a farewell: the last Opera Holland Park of 2020

Opera Holland Park - the final concert in the 2020 season (Photo Ali Wright)
Opera Holland Park - the final concert in the 2020 season (Photo Ali Wright)
And so Opera Holland Park's enterprising 2020 season came to its end. Saturday 8 August 2020 would have been the final performance of the planned 2020 season, and instead it marked the end of the short lockdown season of three concerts of opera arias and a family performance based around G&S' The Pirates of Penzance, which was, frankly, little short of amazing in the current circumstances. For many people, the music at Holland Park would be the first live music they had heard in months. 

Opera Holland Park - Emma Stannard, Matthew Kofi Waldren, City of London Sinfonia(Photo Ali Wright)
Opera Holland Park - Emma Stannard, Matthew Kofi Waldren,
City of London Sinfonia(Photo Ali Wright)
Saturday saw a talent cast of opera singers performing everything from Handel and Mozart, through Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, to Verdi and Puccini, along with something from Rogers & Hamerstein's Carousel. We began with Jennifer France in 'Mein Herr Marquis' from Strauss' Die Fledermaus, and ended with David Butt Philip in 'Nessun Dorma' from Puccini's Turandot. The list of performers, a terrific line up by any reckoning, was sopranos Lauren Fagan, Jennifer France, Anush Hovhannisyan, Alison Langer, Anna Patalong, Natalya Romaniw, and Nardus Williams, mezzo-sopranos Aigul Akhmetshina and Emma Stannard, tenors Jack Roberts, David Butt Philip and Samuel Sakker, baritones Grant Doyle and Ross Ramgobin, accompanied by nine members of the City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren.

Unlike the opening night, the sun shone and the effect was glorious. Never has live performance, and the emotional effect of having a singer in direct contact with the audience made so much effect. The programme was an evening of popular operatic excerpts, but having had a break from hearing live performance made even the most hackneyed piece seem different, and you began to understand the reasons for the arias' continued popularity. There were plenty of moments of strong emotional pull, and for me the twin highlights, unfairly singling out individuals, were Jennifer France in 'Lascia ch'io pianga' from Handel's Rinaldo and Natalya Romaniw in the Song to the Moon from Dvorak's Rusalka. But what came over from every single artist was a sense of the sheer joy of being there, of performing.

We heard from two of Opera Holland Park's Young Artists, who should have been giving us Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin this year. So, Emma Stannard gave a delightful account Olga's aria and Jack Roberts gave a fine rendition of Lensky's aria.


Opera Holland Park - Jack Robert, Matthew Kofi Waldren, City of London Sinfonia(Photo Ali Wright)
Opera Holland Park - Jack Roberts, Matthew Kofi Waldren,
City of London Sinfonia(Photo Ali Wright)
When Lauren Fagan and Samuel Sakker sang the Brindisi from Verdi's La traviata, the chorus (usually omitted in concert excerpts of the duet) was supplied by other artists sitting in the wings (rather recalling pre-war Covent Garden's habit of supplying the off-stage chorus of ghost sailors from the Dutchman's ship in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman from any singer around at the time, including luminaries like Caruso!), and this happened also in David Butt Philip's wonderful rendition of 'Nessun Dorman' which brought the evening to a close.

Except that there was one more thing to do. As the last performance of the season, this was the chance for everyone to say good bye to Michael Volpe, who takes early retirement in September and who as general director founded the company over 30 years ago. Under Mike's direction (for the last 20 years in tandem with James Clutton as director of opera) the company has transformed opera at Holland Park from simply a venue for delightful summer revels (of varying quality) to an important factor in the British operatic scene, reviving forgotten operas and providing many talented artists with their early career roles. Who can forget such occasions as Wolf Ferrari's I gioielli della Madonna, the largest production the company has ever mounted, with early career roles for singers such as Natalya Romaniw and Luis Gomes.

Opera Holland Park - Jennifer France - Photo Ali Wright)
Opera Holland Park - Jennifer France
with Nardus Williams, Jack Roberts, Grant Doyle waiting in the wings (Photo Ali Wright)
And there was one final item in the programme, a farewell present for Mike. Many current and former members of Opera Holland Park chorus gathered in a huge arc surrounding the audience and sang Mascagni's 'Hymn to the Sun' from Iris, an opera which the company memorably performed in 2016 and which they evidently performed in the mid-1990s, early in the company's life.

'Mein Herr Marquis' - Die Fledermaus (Strauss) - Jennifer France
'Tutto è disposto…Aprite un po'quegli occhi' - Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) - Ross Ramgobin
'Caro nome' - Rigoletto (Verdi) - Alison Langer
'Seguidilla' - Carmen (Bizet) - Aigul Akhmetshina
'O mio babbino caro' - Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) - Anna Patalong
'Libiamo, ne' lieti calici' - La traviata (Verdi) - Lauren Fagan & Samuel Sakker
'Dove sono i bei momenti' - Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) - Nardus Williams
'Ja nye sposobna k grusti tomnoy' - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) - Emma Stannard
'Kuda, kuda vï udalilis' - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) - Jack Roberts
'Là ci darem la mano' - Don Giovanni (Mozart) - Anna Patalong & Ross Ramgobin
'Lascia ch'io pianga' - Rinaldo (Handel) - Jennifer France
'Ja vas lyublyu' (Yeletzky's aria) - The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) - Grant Doyle
'Sì, mi chiamano Mimì' - La bohème (Puccini) - Lauren Fagan
'If I Loved You' - Carousel (Rodgers) - Alison Langer
'Quando m'en vo'' - La bohème (Puccini) - Anush Hovhannisyan
'O soave fanciulla' - La bohème (Puccini) - Nardus Williams & David Butt Philip
'E lucevan le stelle' - Tosca (Puccini) - Samuel Sakker
'Un bel dì' - Madama Butterfly (Puccini) - Natalya Romaniw
'Nessun dorma' - Turandot (Puccini) - David Butt Philip

Opera Holland Park - Anush Hovhannisyan, Matthew Kofi Waldren (Photo Ali Wright)
Opera Holland Park - Anush Hovhannisyan, Matthew Kofi Waldren (Photo Ali Wright)

Conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Accompanied by City of London Sinfonia:
Violin I: Martin Burgess, Fiona McCapra
Violin II: Clare Hayes, Ann Lovatt
Viola: Fiona Bonds, Katie Heller
Cello: Will Schofield, Rachel van der Tang
Double bass: Lynda Houghton

Elsewhere on this blog
  • 2000 years of history: guitarist Xuefei Yang on exploring the music of her homeland on her new disc Sketches of China, on DECCA - interview
  • Engaging dexterity: Bach's English Suites from the young Italian harpsichordist Paolo Zanzu  - CD review
  • A short yet magical experience: Interstices from Brother Tree Sound  - CD review
  • In the tavern of sweet songs: settings of classical Persian poetry in Edward Fitzgerald's English versions by contemporary composer David Lewiston Sharpe - Cd review
  • The Prison: conductor James Blachly on how an American conductor & orchestra finally brought Ethel Smyth's late masterwork to disc - interview
  • Towards German romantic opera: Carl Maria von Weber's struggle to create modern German opera - feature article
  • Live music returns: Opera Holland Park's uplifting evening of operatic arias from an impressive line-up of performers - concert review
  • Creating new opera under lockdown: I chat to composer Alex Woolf about A Feast in the Time of Plague, his new opera with Sir David Pountney to be premiered by Grange Park Opera - interview
  • Zest and relish: Handel's comic masterpiece Semele directed by John Eliot Gardiner with young cast enjoying every minute - CD review
  • Media Vita reconsidered: Alamire's fine new recording takes advantage of the latest research into the structure of Sheppard's great antiphon - CD review
  • Stanford and Howells Remembered: John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers' influential recording returns in expanded format - CD review
  • 'Home

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