This annual showcase for the singers, musicians and directors on the Jette Parker Young Artists scheme is always fascinating. One can observe these young performers developing their skills and huge potential as they gain experience and mentoring, whilst having tantalising glimpses as to paths where their careers may possibly lead them.
Here we were presented with six meaty chunks of repertoire works, deftly engineered to fit into variants of elements of the sets from David McVicar’s staging of Le nozze di Figaro. Indeed this concert opened with the first fifteen minutes of that opera. After a rather measured account of the Overture conducted by Thomas Payne, Yaritza Véliz and Michael Mofidian kicked proceedings off with some engaging singing and good dramatic interaction.
The Gluck extract was the standout part of the first half, largely owing to some expert pacing and judgement of mood and classical style afforded by Edmund Whitehead’s conducting – the Orchestra responding beautifully. The predicament of the ill-fated lovers was skilfully presented with effective use of lighting. Physically and vocally Jacquelyn Stucker and Patrick Terry were incredibly assured. Stucker expertly charted the volatility of Eurydice and her performance of ‘Che fiero momento’ was as stylish as one could hope to hear, every word telling and coloured magnificently. Patrick Terry, similarly, proved adept at unfolding the varied emotions of the hero by vocal means, although his projection of the text was perhaps less distinctive and individual.
The choice of the Debussy extract was curious as the dramatic power of Pelléas when played complete lies in the gradual build-up of tension – to dive in at the almost midway point immediately set some engagement challenges for the performers. Patrick Milne’s precise conducting had spaciousness but a satisfying sense of foreboding. Hongni Wu’s bright pure tones were heard to great advantage as a Mélisande seemingly more manipulative and intriguingly knowing than many. The forthright Pelléas of Dominic Sedgewick was a great foil – and he made light of the demands of this unusual half-baritone / half-tenor role. Michael Mofidian’s bluff utterances and distinctive deportment as Golaud were suitably chilling.
James Hendry and the Orchestra brought all the allure and exoticism to the opening of the Saint-Saëns extract, leaving one pondering as to why this marvellous work has been absent from the Royal Opera House repertoire for so long. Aigul Akhmetshina brought vocal lustre to ‘Amour! Viens aider ma faiblesse!’ as she chillingly revealed Delilah’s duplicity. Germán E. Alcántara’s incisive and trenchant singing of the High Priest of Dagon was likewise impressive – in their duet both displayed impressive sense of line and theatricality, even if both perhaps needed a little more punch and power at the lower reaches of their ranges.
In the Rossini extract Hongni Wu returned as an agile and engaging Rosina with Thando Mjandana providing crisp and extrovert support as Count Almaviva. Dominic Sedgewick was a personable and reactive Figaro. The final large ‘chunk’ was from Rigoletto with Haegee Lee taking the vocal honours in an impeccably sung ‘Caro nome’. Konu Kim, for some years a rather familiar feature of Royal Opera casts, provided forthright support as the Duke and Aigul Akhmetshina sketched in a notably detailed cameo as Giovanna. Even if he wasn’t given much opportunity to show his stagecraft skills the potential of Chuma Sijeqa’s voice was evident.
The final offering was a rousing ‘Tutto nel mondo è burla’ from Verdi’s Falstaff, with the nice theatrical touch of the singers largely returning to the costuming and groupings of their roles in the excerpts – so we had Figaro/Susanna, Orfeo/Eurydice, Delilah and the High Priest, and the Rossini and Verdi principal trios lined up as examples of various states of the human condition they had so satisfyingly exhibited and were singing about.