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Opera Restor'd Love's Labyrinth Wigmore Hall 15 Dec 2005

Opera Restor'd
Steven Devine (musical director/harpsichord)
Angela Henckel ('She')
Giles Davies ('He')
Taro Takeuchi (theorbo)
Susanna Pell (bass viol)
Devised by Peter Holman
Jack Edwards (director)
Robin Linklater (designer)

A pleasant and unpretentious staged concert of minor 17/18 C British music in costume, and designed for easy touring. It failed to fill the Wigmore Hall, but the small audience was well pleased. Sonatas by Finger and Bechi were notable for Susanna Pell's fine viol playing and songs of Purcell, Clarke, Eccles, Humphrey & King were given in lightly strung together sequences.

Of the two singers, Giles Davies was the more consistent. Most of the songs were strophic and "samey" in manner by the various composers, which led to a little tedium during the more cheerful earlier sections, First Love & The Pangs of Love. The main themes were "Should I?", "Will she?" etc. Things improved with the tensions of Married Life, with disillusion, lively quarrels, drunkenness, and resignation towards old age. Purcell's Bacchus is a power divine was a characteristic scena, and towards the end songs of acceptance of love's slower burning 'in aged veins', passion giving over to kindness.

This should all work well in smaller venues, and be an ideal entertainment in schools backed by suitable lessons (at Wigmore Hall there was a pre-concert event, which we were unable to attend.)

Opera Restor'd has had a long association with Hyperion, but because of their current financial situation it is unlikely that this year's production will be recorded.- See Hyperion's Message Board "the judgement shows only too clearly that the law is indeed an ass, and a patently unmusical animal at that".

To appreciate a good example of what we are losing by their necessarily reduced recording schedule, I am happy to recommend Opera Restor'd's 1996 CD of William Boyce's Peleus and Thetis directed by Peter Holman (CDA66935) with five excellent singers. With the pressure upon our attention of the multitude of new releases every month, many of them of dubious value, it is well sometimes to look at back catalogues.

In this case the link to Gramophone's review on Gramofile brings up the opinion of the late, great Stanley Sadie, which serves equally to summarise my opinion of yesterday's concert:

- - It isn't great music, but it is tuneful, in a characteristically English way, and it shows sensitivity to the words and their sense. The singers catch the flavour happily. A very agreeable disc.'

Enquiries to caroline@operarestord.co.uk

© Peter Grahame Woolf