Tuesday 4 July 2006

On Sunday we made our final visit to Grange Park Opera, this time for a recital rather than an opera. Using the set for their production of L'Elisir d'Amore, complete with tea waggon, Bruce Ford, accompanist Ian Burnside and sundry Friends gave the first recital to be hosted on the Grange Park stage.

Bruce Ford started with a group of Italian salon songs, 3 by Mercadante and 1 each by Gomes, Donizetti and Rossini. I must confess that I have a rather small appetite for these songs and was rather impatient for the bigger fare. It was perhaps not helped that Ford's voice has developed a pronounced vibrato which, though not unattractive, was more suitable to the larger scale items than the more intimate songs.

Janis Kelly, as the first friend sang Elizabetta's opening aria from Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. This is a role that she sang at Grange Park last year and her command of the genre was impressive. She projected a real image of the regal Elizabeth. Though her voice lacks the ideal warmth for this style of music, her command of musical line and fioriture were impressive. Kelly and Ford then followed this with a touching performance of Parigi, O Cara the Act 3 duet from La Traviata.

David Stout was a new fact at Glyndebourne. He has only recently finished on the opera course at the Guildhall. He is singing Papageno in next year's Magic Flute at Grange Park. As a taster of his Mozart he gave us a fine rendition of the Count's aria from Le Nozze de Figaro. I look forward to his Mozart as he has a good sense of line and an appealing stage presence. Finally he and Bruce Ford sang Au fond du Temple saint from Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles.

Ford opened the 2nd half with Where'er you walk from Semele and an aria from Kalman's Countess Maritza. Ford displayed his customary elegance in the Handel, but I was did find his vibrato a little intrusive. He managed the switch to operetta very well and sang the Kalman with consumate elegance and style, moving from English to German.

Then Rebecca von Lipinski, who sang the Countess in the current Grange Park Le Nozze de Figaro and who will be singing the First Lady in next year's Magic Flute, gave a rather careful rendition of Come Scoglio from Cosi van Tutte. Whilst it was not the most idiomatic performance, it is much to her credit that she did not come to grief in this most taxing aria.

Then Colin Lee made his single appearance in the evening. Lee is singing Nemorino in the current Grange Park production of L'Elisir d'Amore but in the new year he will be sharing the role of Tonio in La Fille du Regiment with Juan Diego Florez at Covent Garden. As a taster for this he sang Ah, mes ami, Tonio's stunningly taxing aria complete with its row of 6 top C's. Lee's performance was truly brilliant and appeared quite effortless. I look forward to seeing him at Covent Garden next year. I must confess that, even though it was supposed to have been Ford's evening, I would love to have heard much more of Colin Lee in this type of repertoire.

The remaining 4 singers then concluded with 4 party pieces. All seemed far more relaxed than previously. Rebecca von Lipinski managed something almost as difficult as singing Mozart, bringing off a Noel Coward song. She sang Zigeuner quite beautifully, without ever seeming to overwhelm the song with her trained operatic voice, quite a skill. Bruce Ford the gave us Britten's Ploughboy, Janis Kelly did a lovely version of Paris from Sondheim's Follies, the words altered to fit the occasion with many Grange Park references. Then finally David Stout, who did a degree in Zoology, sang The Bird and the Beast by Celius Dougherty, a composer I had not come across before. Its hilarious text apparently written by a 10 year old boy. Stout proved a very apt performer, again showing an appealing stage presence.

There was one encore, when Stout and Kelly left the audience clamouring for more after there rendition of a Victoria Wood song. The evening was nothing if not eclectic!

The songs were introduced by Ian Burnside and the performers. Whilst this gave a charming intimacy to the evening, it meant we did not have the words. Which was a lack in the foreign language songs. Still,the evening was a charming success and I hope that Grange Park repeat it.

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