Il barbiere di Siviglia – Overture
Il turco in Italia – Act I quartet
Kishani Jayasinghe, Haoyin Xue, Krzysztof Szumanski & Robert Gleadow
Die Entführung aus dem serial – Act III recitative and duet
Ana James & Nikola Matišić
Werther – Act III/scene 1 ‘Air des lettres’
I due Foscari – Act II scena, trio & quartet
Marina Poplavskaya, Andrew Sritheran, Darren Jeffery & Robert Gleadow
Billy Budd – Act II [excerpt]
Jacques Imbrailo, Andrew Sritheran, Robert Gleadow, Nikola Matišić, Krzysztof Szumanski & Darren Jeffery
L’amico Fritz – Act II duet
Kishani Jayasinghe & Nikola Matišić
Pelléas et Mélisande – Act IV/scene 4
Marina Poplavskaya & Jacques Imbrailo
Lakmé – Act III Duo finale
Ana James, Haoyin Xue & Krzysztof Szumanski
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Harry Fehr – Concert Staging
Robert Marsh – Lighting
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: 21 July, 2007
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme was set up in 2001 to support the artistic development of professional singers, conductors, directors and répétiteurs at the start of their careers. Funded by Oak Foundation, it generally includes ten singers, a conductor, a répétiteur and a stage director, although in detail this may vary from year to year.
The Young Artists are employed as full-time salaried company members at the Royal Opera House for a period of two years. During that time they receive opera coaching covering music, language, movement, acting and stage technique. They work with leading international singers, directors and conductors, take part in small roles and cover larger ones in the Royal Opera repertory, the Linbury Studio chamber operas, concerts and recitals in-house and elsewhere. The non-singing members of the Programme, the conductors, directors and répétiteurs, also work with the Royal Opera music staff, coaching the Young Artists and playing in workshop sessions, auditions and recitals. It is an ideal showcase for new talents and most go on to major work after leaving the Programme.
Names that have come out of previous years’ participants include sopranos Gweneth-Ann Jeffers, Sally Matthews, Ailish Tynan and Katie van Kooten, mezzos Tove Dahlberg, Liora Grodnikaite and Ekaterina Gubanova, tenors Alfie Boe, Andrew Kennedy and Robert Murray, baritones Grant Doyle and Jared Holt and basses Darren Jeffrey and Matthew Rose. Liora Grodnikaite and Darren Jeffrey were performing in this year’s annual Summer Concert along with many other singers who have become household names already including bass Robert Gleadow, baritone Jacques Imbrailo, soprano Marina Poplavskaya, and bass-baritone Krzysztof Szumanski.
The concert opened with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Stephen Barlow playing the overture to Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia”. Staying with Rossini, the first excerpt was from “Il turco in Italia”. Although the singers appear in evening dress, this does not prevent them from fully acting out their roles, unlike most concert performances of operatic excerpts, a chance for us to judge their acting abilities and the evening produced some impressive work in that direction. Kishani Jayasinghe made a delightful Fiorilla, having to cope with pouring coffee as well as singing and staying in character. She was well supported by Robert Gleadow’s Selim, Haoyin Xue’s Narciso and Krzysztof Szumanski’s Geronio.
In the scene from Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”, lovers Konstanze and Belmonte are being kept prisoners by the Pasha Selim. Ana James and Nikola Matišić gave a moving account of their frustrated passion. In Massenet’s ‘Air de lettres’ from Act Three of “Werther” we had an unusually glamorous Charlotte in the performance of Liora Grodnikaite as she re-reads Werther’s letters and admits her love for him in some beautiful singing. The first half ended with part of Act Two from Verdi’s “I due Foscari”. Despite the obvious strength of soprano Poplavskaya as Lucrezia, the male trio seemed to be struggling their way through it.
The Act Two excerpt from Britten’s “Billy Budd” pulled literally no punches. Jacques Imbrailo, who has already exhibited his forte in Britten in the Linbury Studio staging of “Owen Wingrave”, was fine as Billy and brought the scene to a dramatic close as he dealt a death blow to the evil Claggart. Good work too from Andrew Sritheran as Captain Vere and Robert Gleadow as Claggart.
The rest of the programme depicted romantic love in all its glory. The first declaration, but the only happy ending, came in the Act Two ‘Cherry duet’ from “L’amico Fritz”, with Jayasinghe’s Suzel picking flowers for Matišić’s Fritz in a charming interpretation of Mascagni’s delightful melody. Less happy, of course, is the last scene of Act Four from Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande”, here given a beautifully moving account by Poplavskaya and Imbrailo. Finally, the Duo close of Act Three of Delibes’s “Lakmé” (a rarity recently revived in a strong production by Opera Holland Park). Ana James as Lakmé, Haoyin Xue as Gérald and Krzysztof Szumanski as Nilakantha made the death of Lakmé into a chilling interpretation of a scene in which love conquers all.
With the Orchestra on the stage, conductors Stephen Barlow and Andrew Griffiths, the latter the Jette Parker entrant (he conducted the Massenet and Mascagni excerpts), provided a good account of all the varied music, making us want to see more of these talented young singers – and of course we will be seeing many of them again at the Royal Opera House in the coming seasons.
- Recorded by BBC Radio 3 for future broadcast
- Royal Opera