Monday 12 February 2024

Something a little bit special: David Butt Philip & friends gala for St Paul's Opera in Clapham

Rainelle Krause, David Butt Philip, Alison Langer, St Paul's Opera chorus - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)
Rainelle Krause, David Butt Philip, Alison Langer, St Paul's Opera chorus - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)

David Butt Philip & Friends Gala; Rainelle Krause, Alison Langer, David Butt Philip, David Stout, Jo Ramadan, George Ireland; St Paul's Opera at St Paul's Church, Clapham

David Butt Philip as Florestan, David Stout as Posa, Rainelle Krause as the Queen of the Night, Alison Langer as Mozart's Countess in vivid gala evening for St Paul's Opera in Clapham

Tenor David Butt Philip has been singing Apollo in Richard Strauss' Daphne at the Staatsoper in Berlin and in March he will be singing Florestan in a production of Beethoven's Fidelio at the Bavarian State Opera. Opera goers in the UK will have to wait until the Summer, however, when he will be singing Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at Opera Holland Park. But on Friday 9 February 2023, opera lovers in Clapham got a real treat as David Butt Philip joined sopranos Alison Langer and Rainelle Krause, and baritone David Stout for a gala at St Paul's Church, Clapham in aid of St Paul's Opera.

David Butt Philip is the patron of St Paul's Opera and this was the third such gala for them that he had organised. Accompanied by pianists George Ireland and Jo Ramadan, we were treated to a programme of arias, duets and scenes from Bizet's Carmen, Gounod's Faust, Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte, Verdi's Don Carlo, Rigoletto and La traviata, Beethoven's Fidelio, Korngold's Die tote Stadt and Puccini's Turandot, along with items from Bernstein's West Side Story and Candide. All was sung from memory, and many of the excerpts were dramatic scenes rather than solo arias, thus making the evening a rather vivid one in the relatively intimate confines of St. Paul's Church.

Rainelle Krause - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)
Rainelle Krause - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)

We began with 'Parle moi de mère' from Bizet's Carmen with Alison Langer making a self-possessed Micaele and David Butt Philip as robust, yet shy Don Jose. David Stout followed as an expansive, dark-toned Valentin in 'Avant de quitter ces lieux' from Gounod's Faust. Then Langer, as the Countess, was joined by Rainelle Krause as Susanna for their duet from Le nozze di Figaro, a delightful moment that made you want them to continue the opera.

A large-scale scene came next, Posa's dramatic death from Verdi's Don Carlo with David Stout giving a compelling performance and David Butt Philip giving fine support as Don Carlo. Afterwards, Alison Langer charmed as a poised Gilda in 'Cara nome' from Verdi's Rigoletto, then Rainelle Krause scared the hell out of us with vividly dramatic account of the Queen of the Night's Act One aria from Die Zauberflöte. Krause will be singing the role in English National Opera's forthcoming revival of Die Zauberflöte with David Stout as Papageno.

Part two opened with something really a bit special. Florestan's opening scene from Beethoven's Fidelio with David Butt Philip returning to a role he last sang on stage in 2020 (at Covent Garden) but which he returns to in Bavaria in March. This was a compelling performance, rendered more so as he did not feel the need to accompany thrilling yet moving account of the scene with unnecessary movement.

David Stout - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)
David Stout - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)

To follow that, David Stout was movingly intimate in Fritz's nostalgic song 'Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen' from Korngold's Die tote Stadt. Another scene came next, Rainelle Krause as Violetta in the final scene from Act One of La traviata, 'Sempre libera', with Krause's gutsy Violetta complemented by David Butt Philip's off-stage Alfredo (a luxury you don't usually get in concert excerpts). Alison Langer then returned as a poised yet feisty Countess with 'Dove sono' from Le nozze di Figaro'

David Stout's account of 'Some Enchanted Evening' from Rogers & Hamerstein's South Pacific made you remember that the role was originally written for one of the greatest opera singers of the day, Ezio Pinza, and Stout's performance made a strong case for an operatic voice here. Then Alison Langer and David Butt Philip's account of the balcony scene from Bernstein's West Side Story was so engaging that you wondered what the rest of their performance might be like. Rainelle Krause was then a fierce Cunegonde in a spectacular performance of 'Glitter and be gay' from Bernstein's Candide.

We ended with David Butt Philip on thrilling form in a finely musical account of 'Nessun Dorma' from Puccini's Turandot, joined by the St Paul's Opera Chorus. Only that wasn't the end. There was a delightful encore. David Stout gamely joined the chorus, whilst David Butt Philip, Alison Langer and Rainelle Krause performed the Act One Brindisi from Verdi's La traviata with one Alfredo and two Violettas. Now that is a performance that I'd love to see.

David Butt Philip - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)
David Butt Philip - St Paul's Church (Photo: Craig Fuller Photography)

Throughout the singers were accompanied deftly and sympathetically by George Ireland and Jo Ramadan, the two taking turn and turn about.

What made the evening such a joy was the way the singers brought each item to dramatic life (and they introduced each one too), whilst seeming to be enjoying themselves as well.

St Paul's Opera returns to the operatic stage from 4 to 6 July 2024 with Strauss' Die Fledermaus, but before then there is a song recital, The Rose upon the Briar with tenor Michael Gibson, soprano Margarita Wood and pianist Lucy Colquhoun on 22 March, and an oratorio concert from the St Paul's Opera chorus on 19 April. All events take place at St Paul's Church, Clapham.

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