The Royal Opera – From Studio to Stage: Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance [Die Zauberflöte, Anna Bolena, L’elisir d’amore, Ch’io mi scordi di te, Eugene Onegin, La rondine]

Die Zauberflöte – Overture; Act I [extract]
Anna Bolena – Act I Duet
L’elisir d’amore – Act II [extract]
Ch’io mi scordi di te, K505
Eugene Onegin – Act I/scene one
La rondine – Act II [extract]

[sung in German, Italian and Russian, with English surtitles]

Die Zauberflöte
Pamina – Dušica Bijelić
First Lady – Susana Gaspar
Second Lady – Hanna Hipp
Third Lady – Justina Gringyte
Monostatos – Pablo Bemsch
Tamino – David Butt Philip
Papageno – Michel de Souza

Anna Bolena
Giovanna Seymour – Justina Gringyte
Enrico – Jihoon Kim

L’elisir d’amore
Adina – Susana Gaspar
Nemorino – Pablo Bemsch

Ch’io mi scordi di te
Hanna Hipp (mezzo-soprano) & Helen Nicholas (piano)

Eugene Onegin
Tatyana – Dušica Bijelić
Madame Larina – Justina Gringyte
Olga – Hanna Hipp
Lensky – Pablo Bemsch
Eugene Onegin – Ashley Riches

La rondine
Lisette – Dušica Bijelić
Magda – Susana Gaspar
Ruggero – Pablo Bemsch
Prunier – David Butt Philip
Rambaldo – Jihoon Kim
Girls – Justina Gringyte & Hanna Hipp
Students – Michel de Souza & Ashley Riches

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
David Syrus
Michele Gamba [Eugene Onegin]
Paul Wingfield [Die Zauberflöte]

Pedro Ribeiro – Director
James Simpson – Lighting design

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 30 June, 2013
Venue: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance, The Royal Opera, June 2013. Photograph: Clive BardaFifteen was the number: nine singers, a pianist, a director, a lighting designer, and three conductors. This was the annual celebration of upcoming talent as nurtured by Royal Opera through the Jette Parker Young Artists scheme. Let me single out David Syrus; no doubt young at heart he has been Royal Opera’s Head of Music for twenty years and has notched up numerous complete performances in the House. He conducted the lion’s share of this matinee presentation, and his admirable ability to elicit characterful and poised playing while supporting the singers played a big part in the afternoon’s success. (Good to see in the audience another ROH old-hand, former Chorus Master Terry Edwards. His successor, Renato Balsadonna, was also in attendance.)

We began with a smidgen of The Magic Flute. Paul Wingfield conducted the Overture, and very well too, attentive to details and dynamics, the music given time to express itself and in healthy-sounding timbres. (Colin Davis came to mind.) During its course the curtains opened to reveal an imperious setting and a dimly lit, misty stage. If Wingfield had impressed with the Overture, it was then a surprise that he harried the singers and the orchestra … but Pamina and Papageno at least made something of their encounter. The set, with a few changes, would serve all that followed; so too, unfortunately, the subdued lighting, at least for a while, which was a miscalculation, obfuscating what there was to see. With every lamp in the auditorium switched off, this could have been an inducement to sleep, save Justina Gringyte Ashley Riches as Eugene Onegin & Pablo Bemsch as Lensky (Eugene Onegin, Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance, The Royal Opera, June 2013. Photograph: Clive Bardawas quite stunning in the Anna Bolena duet; she is someone with impressive vocal command and genuine stage presence, her Jane Seymour (who has caught the eye of Henry VIII) made here a formidable figure suspicious of said king and concerned for her mistress Anne Boleyn. This was gripping stuff, Gringyte living the role, and not far behind her in vocal and acting skills was the royal presence of Jihoon Kim. A different Donizetti followed, and thankfully a shilling was put in the meter to illuminate the stage better, for Pablo Bemsch to give Nemorino’s well-known ‘Una furtiva lagrima’, smoothly and affectingly, and with a lightly strummed harp and expressive clarinet coming from the pit. His beloved Adina then shows, the nice girl next door, sweetly and easefully sung by Susana Gaspar with some amusing off-the-cuff reactions.

After the interval, a concert-aria staged. The business-suited Hanna Hipp, case in hand, performed the recitative with ardent regret although the aria itself was just a little rushed, if gracefully accompanied. It was good to see the piano sharing the stage, although its hard-left position (from where an orange glow added nothing save distraction) did slightly relegate the instrument’s relationship to the singer and would also have disenfranchised many viewers. Nevertheless, the balance was good and Helen Nicholas (who had played fortepiano continuo in L’elisir) gave a sparkling and shapely rendition of the keyboard part. Then to Russia for the opening of Eugene Onegin, which here lacked Slavonic temperament, Michele Gamba (any relation to Piero?) keeping emotions under wraps, one or two things in the orchestra a little unsure. Not quite a read-through, it wasn’t the real thing either. It’s not a contest, but the gents made more of an impression than did the ladies. Finally there was a taster (teaser) of La rondine, which opens this Friday at ROH, with some of these singers. Here was something close to opulence in the staging, tables and chairs now usable, a top restaurant created, and also an extra depth of field (daylight through windows). You’ve got to hand it to Puccini; he knows how to manipulate your emotions. La rondine may not be his greatest score, but this Act II snippet ended the afternoon on a passionate high, a quartet that steals the heart and found the principal singers rapturous. Are critics allowed tears in their eyes?

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