Thursday 15 March 2018

Multi-faceted diva: Bampton Classical Opera's 'Songs for Nancy'

Bampton Classical Opera: Songs for Nancy - Andrew Griffiths, Jacquelyn Stucker and CHROMA (Photo Roger Way)
Bampton Classical Opera: Songs for Nancy - Andrew Griffiths, Jacquelyn Stucker and CHROMA (Photo Roger Way)
Songs for Nancy - Mozart, Salieri, Stephen Storace, Martin y Soler, Haydn; Jacquelyn Stucker, Rhiannon Llewellyn, Chroma, Andrew Griffiths; Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Squaree
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on 7 March 2018 Star rating: 3.5
A celebration of the soprano Nancy Storace, with some of the arias written for her by Mozart and his contemporaries

Nancy Storace (1765–1817) had a fascinating and very contemporary story. She had a prodigious talent and pushy parents, a tempestuous love life and early death. She had more success with her social circle: 'one of the most accomplished and agreeable women of her age, fascinating everyone by her habitual good humour, her lively and intelligent conversation, and her open and ingenuous character', said her obituary. 'Her house at Herne Hill was a seat of hospitality to numerous respectable friends'.

In belated celebration of the bicentenary of her death, Bampton Classical Opera presented Songs for Nancy at St John's Smith Square on 7 March 2018. Andrew Griffiths conducted Chroma, and played the obbligato piano in Mozart's Ch’io mi scordi di te? K505 and sopranos Jacquelyn Stucker and Rhiannon Llewellyn sang a range of music associated with Nancy Storace including arias by Mozart, Salieri, Stephen Storace (her brother), Martin y Soler and Haydn.

The programme booklet (written mostly by Jeremy Gray, joint artistic director of Bampton Classical Opera) told Nancy’s story well, and put her talent into its historical context. Most famous for creating the role of Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, she needed to be a soubrette and a diva, show incredible stamina (she’s hardly ever off stage), and have an incredible technique that had a huge range and great comic timing. But that wasn’t all. For a while she was at the heart of the musical life of Vienna as well as London.

This concert focused on works associated with Vienna, and the pieces that included voice had the stamp of Mozart’s equally well-travelled librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. The orchestra, Chroma, had some massively gushy works of their own: overtures from works where da Ponte had provided the libretto and a characterful ‘Hen’ symphony by Haydn. We also heard pieces that make an appearance in the supper scene of Don Giovanni: quotations from Cosa rara and I due litiganti. We opened the evening with a busy overture to Salieri’s La scuola de’ gelosi. School of Jealousy – eight years before Le nozze di Figaro.

The arias were shared by two sopranos, very different in style: Jacquelyn Stucker, in an asymmetrical version of the frock in John Singer Sargent’s Madame X, got the show-stopping numbers: Susanna’s seduction aria ‘Deh vieni. Non tardar’ (from Le nozze di Figaro) and the concert aria ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te’ (with a piano obbligato originally played by Mozart himself). Rhiannon Llewellyn majored on the abandoned heroine: the Countess’ aria from Salieri;s La scuola de’ gelosi that foreshadows Figaro’s Countess, and Soler’s affecting cavatina ‘Dolce me parve un dí’ from Cosa rara.

It wasn’t clear whether this distribution was meant to show two sides to Nancy Storace or to say ‘no modern soprano can do justice to her range’. My own sense of her character was gained from what I read in the programme notes.

This was an evening that would have benefited from two things: spoken introductions to help us make the connections rather than trying to read the programme in the dark; and a more intimate venue. The singers did their best to communicate to an audience that was scattered around the far-flung corners of St John’s, and I couldn’t help thinking this would have been so much better in a more intimate space – the Garden Museum across the Lambeth Bridge (where Nancy is buried) might have been a squash for the band, but it would have provided a better sense of Nancy’s London and we could gaze at her memorial plaque high on the wall.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Songs for Nancy Bampton Classical Opera at St John’s Smith Square
Jacquelyn Stucker SOPRANO
Rhiannon Llewellyn SOPRANO
Andrew Griffiths CONDUCTOR & PIANO

Sarti: Overture from Fra i due litiganti il terzo gode
Mozart: ‘Giunse al fin il momento...Deh vieni, non tardar’ from Le nozze di Figaro K492
Stephen Storace: Overture from No song, no supper
Stephen Storace: ‘With lowly suit’ from No song, no supper
Salieri: Overture from La scuola de’ gelosi
Salieri: ‘Or ei con Ernestina...Ah sia già de’ miei sospiri’ from La scuola de’ gelosi
Haydn; Cantata ‘Miseri noi, misera patri’

Haydn: Symphony No. 83 in G minor ‘The Hen’ Hob.I/83
Martin y Soler: ‘Dolce mi parve un di’ from Una cosa rara
Mozart, Salieri, Cornetti: Cantata ‘Per la ricuperata di Ofelia’
Mozart: Ch’io mi scordi di te? K505
Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Consume thoughtfully: Niccolò Porpora's cantatas for the Prince of Wales (★★★½)  - CD review
  • .... Into the deepest sea: from Brahms to Bridge in this recital from Sarah soprano Wegener (★★★½) - CD review
  • A terrific achievement: Handel's Giulio Cesare from Bury Court Opera (★★★★) - opera review
  • Laurence Cummings on the London Handel Festival, Stravinsky, opera, time-travel and more - interview
  • Musicological melange, creative entertainment: Carmen at the Royal Opera House (★★★) - opera review
  • Hard-hitting yet transcendent: Janacek's From the House of the Dead (★★★★) - CD review
  • My last Duchess: the songs of Grace Williams from Jeremy Huw Williams (★★★½) - CD review
  • Remarkable dialogues - Poulenc's opera at the Guildhall - Opera review
  • Goldilocks translated: The Opera Story's latest production (★★★★) - opera review
  • Contrasting double: Puccini's Il tabarro & Gianni Schicchi from ETO (★★★★½) - opera review
  • Beyond an auspicious debut: I chat to French Horn player Ben Goldscheider - interview
  • A return to the world of sleep and dreams: Robert Carsen's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream  (★★★½) - opera review
  • The complete piano works of John McCabe - volume 1 (★★★½) - CD review
  • Handelian celebration with the Foundling Hospital Anthem  (★★★½) - concert review
  • Bach on the piano, Sandro Ivo Bartoli in Bach's smaller pieces (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Home

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