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Royal Academy students in song and opera

Royal Academy Opera Tableaux

Sir Jack Lyons Theatre, 25 January 2008

Scenes from:
Ravel – l’enfant et les sortileges
Handel – Radimisto
Gluck – Iphigenie en Tauride
Wagner – Parsifal
Puccini – Gianni Schicchi
Gounod – Faust
Donizetti – Don Pasquale
Stravinsky – The Rake’s Progress

I always look forward to John Ramster’s Scenes at RAM – he is a director who always seems come up with a neat solution to conveying the spirit of a variety of pieces from minimal resources, and here he gave us extracts from eight operas in un-broken sequence.

Radimisto was presented with classical 18th century gestures and immediately contrasted with a modern interpretation of Iphidenie en Tauride, but the undoubted highlight of the evening was the flower maiden’s scene from Parsifal.  This was notable for its ingenious staging, for Patrick Doyle’s lively costumes, and for its very strong ensemble up of eleven flower maidens. 

A detailed analysis of each extract lies outside the scope of this review, so I will just summarise by listing the individual performances, in order of appearance, that particularly caught my attention.

Emillien Hamel as a thoroughly idiosyncratic Armchair; Emma Carrington singing strongly both as Radimisto and Kundry; David Butt Philip outstanding as Orestes; Amy Radford Charlotte Stephenson and Katerina Rousseau as a well matched and splendidly ingratiating trio of relations seeking favour with Schicchi; Kong Seok Choi as an impressive Mephistopheles; Lisa Crusato, sweet voiced as both Marguerite and Anne Trulove; and Richard Rowe singing himself out of his skin as the mad and dying Tom Rakewell.

Both Stephen Wood and Anthony Hunt were credited in the programme as Conductor/Pianists, and from where I was sitting I was unable to see how they shared the honours. 

“Innocence and Experience”
Des Knaben Wunderhorn in settings by Brahms, Humperdinck, Loewe, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Silcher and Strauss

Wigmore Hall, 27 January 2008

Hei Mi Lee – soprano
Kate Symonds-Joy – mezzo soprano
David Butt Philip, Gerard Collett and George Humphreys – baritone
Simon Lane – piano

Schumann: A Die Schwalben; Marienwurmchen; Kauzlein
Anon: Will ich in mein Gartlein gehn
Mahler: Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen; Verlorne Muh; Nicht wiedersehen! Starke Einbildungskraft; Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz; Lied des Berfolgten im Turm; Selbstgefuhl; Rheinlegendchen
Brahms: Wiegenlied; Ich weiss mir’n Maidlein
Humperdinck:  Aus Hansel und Gretel
Mendelssohn: Altdeutsches Fruhlingslied
Loewe: Herr Oluf
Silcher: Lebewohl
Strauss: Hat gesagt – bleibt’s nicht dabei

With Christopher Maltman’s recital to follow in the evening, this was certainly a baritones Sunday at the Wigmore Hall with three Royal Academy baritones displaying three very different vocal instruments.

David Butt Philip has a voice of rare clarity which is absolutely secure to the highest point of the baritone register.  Two duets and one solo gave just a brief sampling of his quality – I would have liked more.

Gerard Collett (the twin brother of Ronan who is already well embarked on his vocal career) shows an interpretive maturity well beyond his years and beautifully demonstrated in his completely different approaches to Brahms’ deceptively simple Cradlesong and Loewe’s complex ballad Herr Oluf.

George Humphrys is a bass baritone with all the chocolaty warmth of those deep tones and a controlled elegance of phrasing. 

Mezzo Kate Symonds-Joy is another singer of promise.  The songs she was allotted provided ample demonstration of her skill in imitating a naughty child, but I wished she had been given a chance to show a more serious aspect.

Hei Mi Lee both opened and closed the recital.  She is a competent enough soprano, but failed to shine on this occasion, nor did her bright voice blend well with Kate Symonds-Joy’s in duet.

Simon Lane was a tower of supportive strength throughout. This event may in due course find its way into the RAM series of thematic Song Circle CDs, which has previouly included “Songs of Spring” (2004) and “Songs of Seduction” (2006), both available from Academy Chimes Music [Editor]

Serena Fenwick