Sunday 26 July 2020

Live music returns: Opera Holland Park's uplifting evening of operatic arias from an impressive line-up of performers

The cast and crew from Opera Holland Park's concert on 25 July 2020 (Photo Kathy Lette)
The cast and crew from Opera Holland Park's concert on 25 July 2020 (Photo Kathy Lette)
It wasn't the season opening that had been planned (the 2020 season at Opera Holland Park was due to open with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin on 2 June 2020), and there were times during the last few months when it seemed as if there would be no Opera Holland Park 2020 season, but on Saturday 25 July 2020, opera returned to Holland Park. The company presented an evening of operatic arias, sung against the back-drop of the ruins of Holland House, but without the usual temporary theatre and with the audience sitting on chairs in the open air. There was reduced audience capacity, social distancing and other measures in place, but for us and for many in the audience, this was our first live music since the beginning of March.

An impressive line up of singers gave us 90 minutes of opera arias and duets, with a nod towards last year's Opera Holland Park season (Yvonne Howard sang the powerful 'Esser madre è un inferno' from Francesco Cilea's L'arlesiana), and with some artists giving us samples of roles they were due to be performing this year. Matthew Kofi Waldren conducted nine string players from the City of London Sinfonia, and they were joined by sopranos Lauren Fagan, Kiandra Howarth, Alison Langer, Anna Patalong, Natalya Romaniw, and Nardus Williams, mezzo-soprano Clare Presland, tenors David Butt Philip and Samuel Sakker, baritone Ross Ramgobin and bass Blaise Malaba.

We began with Mozart, Ross Ramgobin in Figaro's 'Tutto è disposto…Aprite un po’quegli occhi' from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and we finished with Puccini, Natalya Romaniw in 'Un bel di' from Madama Butterfly. Along the way, we had music from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni, Verdi's Rigoletto, and La traviata, Bizet's Carmen, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Dvorak's Rusalka, Cilea's L'arlesiana, Puccini's La boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, and Suor Angelica, and Richard Rodgers' Carousel. It was a lovely combination of artists and repertoire, and there were many powerful moments during the evening, but there was humour too including a delightful bit of staging involving a mask and hand-sanitiser during 'Là ci darem la mano' from Mozart's Don Giovanni.

The weather, in the run up to the performance, was not kind and the heavens opened. People appeared, however, equipped with umbrellas and rain coverings. In the event, the weather was not unkind, the rain held off during the performance, and there was even a hint of sun. The audience was full of familiar faces, though one had to develop the trick of recognising people behind the face masks, and it felt wonderful being back.

Opera Holland Park is to be complimented for its work in being able to bring live performance back under these difficult circumstances, and for giving us such a lovely selection of fine artists. It felt terrific hearing live music again, and I suspect that many of the performers felt similarly about performing for a live audience again.

Opera Holland Park has announced three further performances this season, there is a family friendly performance The Pirates' Return on 2 August 2020, and two concerts of operatic excerpts on Friday 7 August and Saturday 8 August 2020 (which would have been the close of the season). Full details from the Opera Holland Park website.

Full programme for the concert:
Ross Ramgobin - ‘Tutto è disposto…Aprite un po’quegli occhi’ - Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Alison Langer - ‘Caro nome’ - Rigoletto (Verdi)
Clare Presland - ‘Seguidilla’ - Carmen (Bizet)
Anna Patalong - ‘O mio babbino caro’ - Gianni Schicchi (Puccini)
Lauren Fagan & Samuel Sakker - ‘Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici’ - La traviata (Verdi)
Nardus Williams - ‘Dove sono i bei momenti’ - Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Anna Patalong & Ross Ramgobin - ‘Là ci darem la mano’ - Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Alison Langer - ‘If I Loved You’ - Carousel (Rodgers)
Samuel Sakker - ‘Kuda, kuda vï udalilis’ - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Kiandra Howarth - ‘Senza mamma’ - Suor Angelica (Puccini)
Blaise Malaba - ‘Lyubvi fse vozrastï pokornï’ - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Natalya Romaniw - ‘Song to the Moon’ - Rusulka (Dvořák)
Nardus Williams & David Butt Philip - ‘O soave fanciulla’ - La bohème (Puccini)
Yvonne Howard - ‘Esser madre è un inferno’ - L’arlesiana (Cilea)
Lauren Fagan - ‘Sì, mi chiamano Mimì’ - La bohème (Puccini)
David Butt Philip - ‘E lucevan le stelle’ - Tosca (Puccini)
Natalya Romaniw - ‘Un bel dì’ - Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

Conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren
Accompanied by City of London Sinfonia:
Violin I: Martin Burgess, Charlotte Reid
Violin II: Clare Hayes, Ruth Funnell
Viola: Fiona Bonds, Katie Heller
Cello: William Schofield, Rachel van der Tang
Double bass: Lynda Houghton

Elsewhere on this blog
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  • Zest and relish: Handel's comic masterpiece Semele directed by John Eliot Gardiner with young cast enjoying every minute - CD review
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  • Stanford and Howells Remembered: John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers' influential recording returns in expanded format - CD review
  • Contemplative and contemporary: world premiere recording of Ian Venables's Requiem from Gloucester Cathedral - Cd review
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  • The Invention of English Opera: part two, the brief flowering of English opera, the rise of Italian opera and the development of ballad opera - feature article
  • Thankful to be able to play together at all: the Engegård Quartet on recording Mozart, collaborating with Ola Kvernberg and their festival devoted to Olli Mustonen's music - interview
  • Almost sacred opera: the French group Les Accents in an engaging account of one of Alessandro Scarlatti's oratorios for 17th century Rome - CD review
  • Music when no-one else is near: Michael Mofidian and Julia Lynch live from Glasgow City Halls on BBC Radio 3 - concert review
  • Vienna 1910: the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien in sophisticated and vibrant accounts of works by Mahler, Schoenberg and Richard Strauss - CD review
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