Tuesday 7 January 2014

Luis Gomes lunchtime recital

Luis Gomes
Luis Gomes
Luis Gomes & David Gowland recital: Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 7 2014
Star Rating: 4.0

Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes is now one of Covent Garden's Jette Parker Young Artists and as part of the young artist programme gave a lunchtime recital at Covent Garden's Linbury Theatre on Monday 6 January 2014, accompanied by David Gowland who is Artistic Director of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. Gomes' programme included the Richard Strauss 3 Lieder, Op. 29 and 4 Lieder, op. 27 as well as Federico Mompou's Combat del Somni and four of Sergei Rachmaninov's romances. Before the recital started Gomes dedicated it to the memory of the young soprano Eva Ganizate who died recently.

Gomes's recent appearances on the operatic stage have included Jenik in The Bartered Bride for British Youth Opera (see my review), and Pinkerton in the Christine Collins Young Artists performance of Madama Butterfly at Opera Holland Park (see my review) as well as a notable appearance in Opera Holland Park's I gioielli della Madonna (see my review). Gomes trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and his appearances there included Ned Rorem's Our Town, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Strauss's Vier Lieder, Op. 27 (setting poems by Karl Friedrich Henckell, Heinrich Hart and John Henry Mackay) were written in 1894 and presented to his wife, Pauline, as a wedding present whilst his Drei Lider, Op. 29 (setting poems by Otto Julius Bierbaum) were all written in a single day in 1895. We associate Strauss's songs with the female voice, but clearly Strauss did not; he recorded songs from the Op 29 with the tenor Julius Patzak. Even more interesting, the writer of two of the Op. 29 songs, Heimliche Afforderung and Morgen!, John Henry Mackay, would go on to write some notable gay texts (see my article on this blog).

Singing from memory, Gomes brought all the Strauss songs to life and certainly dispelled any thoughts about whether they worked with a male voice. There is quite a dark quality to Gomes' voice, in addition to its vibrant lyric quality and he brought a vividly engrossing sense to all the songs.

He and Gowland started with the Strauss Drei Lieder, Op. 29. Traum durch die Dammerung was sung with controlled tone and some lovely floated upper notes. Schlagende Herzen was perky and characterful, with Gomes projecting a very appealing stage persona. The more complex Nachtgan was rather touching with some intense moments.

Strauss's Vier Lieder, Op. 27 represent some of his best known songs. Gomes sang Ruhe, meine Seele! with slow intensity and here, as elsewhere, brought out the words. There was an appealing vividness and urgency to Cacilie, but also a sense that the song pushed Gomes to his limits.Heimliche Aufforderung was characterful, with a strong narrative sense. Finally Gomes was understated but touching in the famous opening to Morgen, making us hang onto his every word.

The song cycle Combat del Somni (Dream conflict) by the Catalan composer Federico Mompou (1893 - 1987) dates from the 1940's. It is perhaps his best known cycle and sets poems in Catalan by his friend the poet Josep Janes (1913 - 1959)

Damunt de tu nomes les flors (Above you, naught but flowers) had an appealing lyric beauty and a touching simplicity. Aquesta nit un matelx vent (That night it was the same wind) had a more complex melody, the song being haunting and rather elusive. The very appealing Jo et pressentia com la mar (I envisaged you like the sea) was faster with a nicely flowing piano accompaniment. Gomes sang the songs with a nice directness and caught their elusive mood well.

He and Gowland finished with a group of Rachmaninov songs, three of his Romances, Op.34 and one of his Romances, Op. 14. Gomes caught the melancholy mood of The muse (setting words by Aleksandr  Pushkin). Starting quite delicately, the song rose to some lovely full throated passion, with Gowland contributing a lovely rippling piano part. Day to Night (setting words by Konstantin Balmont) had more of a narrative sense, with Gomes making us follow every word. And some lovely floated top notes. Next came the Vocalise, which Gomes performed with a richly vibrant tone, giving us some nice well filled phrases and displaying great flexibility. Finally, Spring waters, to words by Fyodor Tyutchev, in which Gomes gave us some wonderful passionate phrases leading to a thrilling climax from both him and Gowland.

We were treated to one encore, a richly characterful account Richard Strauss's Zueignung.

Luis Gomes is a singer to watch and though is voice would seem well fitted for the Italian opera repertoire, his choices so far have been far more interesting than that. He has already made his Royal Opera debut in Parsifal and has roles in Turandot, La Traviata and Manon Lescaut coming up. Gomes will be covering the Chevalier in Les Dialogues des Carmelites and at the annual young artists summer performance on 20 July will sing Fernand in act one of Donizetti's La favorite.

Elsewhere on this blog:

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