Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Concert

Le nozze di Figaro – Act IV
Capriccio – Fugue, Duet and Octet
Il viaggio a Reims – Gran pezzo concertato

Kishani Jayasinghe, Pumeza Matshikiza, Anita Watson, Monika-Evelin Liiv, Elizabeth Sikora, Ji-Min Park, Jacques Imbrailo, Krzysztof Szumanski, Kostas Smoriginas, Vuyani Mlinde, Rachel Walters, Haoyin Xue, Frances Millar & Simon Eves

The Orchestra of Opera North
Andrew Griffiths [Mozart]
Richard Farnes

Vera Petrova – Director [Mozart]
Thomas Guthrie – Director [Strauss]
Tanya McCallin – Designs

Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi

Reviewed: 20 July, 2008
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Concert has now become a welcome annual event where audiences, for whom hearing very young singers at college level may be just too raw an experience, can sample the talents of some of the finest emergent voices. The Jette Parker Programme provides for singers, a conductor, a répétiteur and a stage director to spend two years at The Royal Opera receiving coaching and working with those experienced in the art of opera. This year’s Summer Concert (an afternoon affair) was intriguingly planned around operas featuring counts and countesses, showcasing some already-polished artists and some who have yet to make their mark.

The final act of “Le nozze di Figaro” was played out in front of country-house windows rather than under pine trees, but Vera Petrova’s direction preserved the appropriate sense of confusion followed by resolution. The strongest voices were those of the Count, Jacques Imbrailo, and Don Basilio, Ji-Min Park. The former is already well-known to those who frequent the Royal College of Music (and he won the Audience Prize in last year’s Cardiff Singer of the World Competition) – his is a very beautiful, light baritone allied to a confident, even suave, stage presence although there are times when he seems to be listening too much to the sound he is making rather than what is going on around him. Ji-Min Park’s tenor is perhaps too heroic for Don Basilio, so it was good to hear him in a more central role later.

Kishani Jayasinghe as Susanna. ©Johan PerssonThe Figaro of Krzysztof Szumanski was somewhat understated – the voice is evenly produced and the diction commendable but as yet the characterisation is a little lacking. Susanna, Kishani Jayasinghe, was a much more emphatic personality who impressed in ensemble but whose aria proved challenging. The Orchestra of Opera North played eloquently for Andrew Griffiths.

The singing in the ‘Fugue, Duet and Octet’ from “Capriccio” was more evenly balanced with Pumeza Matshikiza a lively Countess and Anita Watson a delightfully dippy Italian diva, her Monroe-style hair and outfit not detracting from her idiomatic singing. Haoyin Xue’s Elvis-style Italian tenor was the ‘star of the show’ with his glitzy costume and genuinely Italianate phrasing.Anita Watson as an Italian soprano & Haoyin Xue as an Italian tenor. ©Johan PerssonPark was a fine Flamand, with the required high-flying phrasing and passionate advocacy; and Imbrailo was a mellifluous Olivier with the right touch of arrogance. Monika-Evelin Liiv was a vibrant Clairon, and Vuyani Mlinde added to his repertoire of small but striking roles with a memorable La Roche. Richard Farnes conducted the sometimes-blazing, sometimes-lyrical score with sensitivity, and Thomas Guthrie’s direction impressed with its sense of style.

The ‘Gran pezzo concertato’ from Rossini’s “Il viaggio a Reims” ended the afternoon and allowed all the singers to enjoy themselves, most evidently in Szumanski’s Barone, Liiv’s Marchesa and the ‘smouldering toreador’ Don Alvaro of Kostas Smoriginas. Farnes provided strong support from the pit.

The Jette Parker scheme has featured such now-familiar artists as Sally Matthews, Andrew Kennedy and Matthew Rose, and it seems a safe assumption that at least some of the singers heard on this occasion will join them. The Programme stages a “Meet the Young Artists Week”, 13-18 October in the Linbury Studio Theatre, with free daily recitals and an intriguing ‘Juke Box’ at noon and 6 p.m. on the final day, where you can select a programme and then meet the artists after the evening recital.

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