Wednesday 24 September 2014

Classical parlour with three4 at Rich Mix

Emma Dogliani and Kate Conway
Emma Dogliani
and Kate Conway
As a change from the formal concert venue I ventured out to Rich Mix in the East End of London. Here Emma Dogliani and friends Kate Conway and Philip Voldman performed a selection of songs from the opera, and other greatest hits, to a packed and appreciative audience. The group, who call themselves 'three4', turned the main bar of Rich Mix into a relaxed parlour cabaret with sofas, tables and chairs, so that they could interact with the audience, walk amongst them, and hand out ice creams(!).

In the two half hour slots the trio tackled serious arias from George Frideric Handel's (1685-1759) 'Alcina' and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's (1756-1791) 'La Clemenza di Tito' (which she will be singing later this year with Midsummer Opera) but balanced them against ''O sole mio' (hence the ice cream) by Giovanni Capurro (1859-1920) and Eduardo di Capua (1865-1917), and 'Funiculì, Funiculà' (in Neapolitan then English for audience participation) by Peppino Turco (1846-1903) and Luigi Denza (1846-1922). For the most part the violin (Conway) provided the tune or counter tune to soprano (Dogliani), with Voldman on keyboard filling in for the rest of the orchestra.

Philip Voldman
Philip Voldman
Dogliani has sung with the Royal Opera and has recently toured with the English Chamber Orchestra and La Serenissima, while Conway plays with the Isis Emsemble, gives recitals in and around London, and set up a local Suzuki hub helping children learn to play. Voldman is the Music Director of Clapham Opera Festival but has also worked with the Grimeborn Opera Festival, Opera Holland Park and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Music Theatre Project.

As a change from the obvious there were two voice-violin duets. A canonic instrumental duet (No. 2) by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was rescored with the violin leading, and 'Sous le dôme épais' ('The Flower Duet'), from the opera 'Lakmé' by Léo Delibes (1836-1891), had Conway playing Mallika's line. For the 'Lakmé' the two ladies walked around the audience lit by a spotlight on what looked like a broom handle held by the sound guy – while a bit Heath Robinson it fitted in with the old fashioned ambience of playing at home to friends and family.

The only wrinkle was that because the violin was amplified her sound came from the same direction no matter where she stood. The amplification also had the effect of making her sound a little woolly due to the tiny delay between her actual sound and the amplified one, and I suspect that the amplification was not equal at all frequencies, which also could have also affected the violin's tone.

Conway got a solo and chose 'Légende Op. 17' by Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880). A slight hiccup occurred when she lost her place but she smoothly and professionally apologised and carried on – and indeed was much more relaxed afterwards. This was so delightfully done that it could almost have been done on purpose to put the audience at ease.

A few sadder songs later the group finished on Georges Bizet's (1838-1875) 'Habanera' ('L'amour est un oiseau rebelle') from 'Carmen' – a song that Dogliani was trying out. 'Habanera' is normally sung by a beefy mezzo voice so Dogliani's soprano gave a new lighter sound to this traditional number. Nevertheless she gave it lots of welly making it the showstopper ending to the concert.

Whether serious or funny, the personalities of the two ladies provided the entertainment, their obvious enjoyment and skill, and the solid accompaniment by Voldman carried the event along. It would have been nice to have heard a piano solo too – but perhaps that is on the cards for next time. Indeed with such a variety of tastes anything could happen... three4 next play Rich Mix in January.
Reviewed by Hilary Glover

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