Wednesday 22 August 2012

Ridiculous? Memories of Rita Hunter

I switched on the radio half an hour ago to listen to something whilst doing work. I listened to Radio 3 cold, didn't bother to check what it was. It was a programme on Ivor Novello with Simon Callow. I listened, at a distance, to the singers (soprano and tenor) doing a duet from Glamorous Night and was very struck. Now, the eagle eyed amongst you will have guessed that it was a repeat of Sir Mark Elder's Ivor Novello Prom. And lovely it is too. But, even now that I know the soprano is Sophie Bevan, I keep hearing echoes of the great Wagnerian soprano, Rita Hunter. It was also good to hear Toby Spence in such good voice.

I have a very treasured LP which was recorded with Hunter in concert at the Wyndham's Theatre accompanied by Hazel Vivienne on the piano, in it Hunter gives her familiar recital mix of arias and light songs, including such things as the Ivor Novello. I know that Bevan is not a Wagnerian soprano, but hearing her singing Novello still brought back very fond memories of the soprano from Wallasea. Especially there was something about Bevan's diction which recalls Hunter.

I heard her live at the South Bank Centre in a recital which managed to range from a creditable performance of the recognition scene for Strauss's Elektra to a delightful little number called (if I remember right) All the Little Pansy Faces looking up with eyes of Love - Hunter always was aware of her large gay following. In fact, her first Wyndhams Sunday night recital was done at the last minute as a replacement and the house was filled quite heavily by men in leather jackets, jeans and moustaches (yep, it was still the clone era, for those that remember such things), who had all come on the basis of word of mouth. Something which unnerved the establishment, but amused Hunter, at least that's what she said when recalling the event in an interview later in the old Gay Times.

I have not found anything of the Wyndhams Theatre recital on the web, so you will have to remain tantalised. I do hope to get it transferred to disc eventually. Especially it has a superb rendering of One Fine Day from Puccini's Madama Butterfly (No, Hunter never looked like Butterfly but could she sing it).

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