Wednesday, 29 June 2011

My third Rosenblatt Recital of the series

Tuesday evening's performance by Vuyani Mlinde was yet another example of what the Rosenblatt Recital Series does so well. They choose talented up-and-coming preformers from around the globe, match them with well-respected accompanists, provide in-depth and extensive information about the music you are about to listen to, then put it all together in a great venue.

In addition, most (if not all) of these performances are recorded for the Rosenblatt Recital Series video channel, so you can relive the performance or send a link to give someone an idea of what they missed.

And Tuesday night, if you weren't at St. John's, Smith Square, you missed a great performance.

Vuyani's voice is a deep, rich baritone which was up to the task of solo recital. The recital differs from an opera performance in being that much clearer to the audience. There is no orchestra to drown out the nuances of richly textured voices, such as those I've heard at this recital series.

The program for the evening is listed below, in the order the songs and arias were performed. My favourites were the Tchaikovsky piece from Iolante, Respighi's Nebbie and the songs by Tosti and Gastaldon. Not to say he sung these any better than the rest of the programme, just pieces I preferred listening to.

A strange thing happened during the first Mozart aria, I found myself wanting to sing along. I don't know the word and I wasn't looking at the libretto, I just found myself wanting to sing along. I suspect that the reason is my own vocal range. I've heard a great deal of opera which highlights tenors, mezzos and sopranos and just enjoyed the music. But last night I realised I was listening to someone who had a similar range to mine. I would have failed terribly had I tried, but that gut-feeling was there throughout. Perhaps that is the enduring quality of opera, that everyone who listens hears something they want to, and perhaps can, sing along to? Not forgetting the great melodies, of course!

The programme for the evening showcased Vuyani's voice perfectly, no lack of strength in the lower register, no tailing off, and lots of humour too. Especially the encore. A degree of emotional intensity was required for Respighi's Nebbie, this didn't ruffle his feathers in the least. The Verdi arias possessed all the colours you would expect, Mozart's lightness, Tchaikovsky's lyricism were all there in technicolor.

Vuyani was in playful mood for the encore. A traditional german drinking song, 'Der mann im keller'. A man sits in a cellar rhapsodising upon the excellent qualities of his favourite alcoholic drink. Dropping from one octave to another with great precision. The audience wouldn't let him leave so he sang again the closing chorus of the drinking song, this time using different registers, rising to falsetto in places, dropping through a scale to the bottom of the register. In german and english. Seemingly comfortable singing both. And apparently more drunk on the song than the first rendition.

Praise must also go to Ingrid Surgenor, the pianist who provided accompaniment for the evening. Masterfully played throughout, never overpowering the songs.

I will follow this post very soon with a re-cap of the Rosenblatt Recital Series. Here is the list of work from the evening:

Se vuol ballare, Le nozze di Figaro
Madamina il castalogo e questo, Don Giovanni
Cosi dunque tradisci, Concert aria

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
Gospod moj, esli gresen ja, Iolanta

Come dal ciel precipita, Macbeth


Infelice! E tu credevi


L'ultima conzone

Musica proibita

Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima, Attila

Der mann im keller, Anon
Text: Carl Müchler, 1802
Musik: Ludwig Fischer, 1802

For those of you who missed Elizabeth Llewellyn, here is a video of her singing Walton:

And here is Serena Malfi singing the Vivaldi I enjoyed so much:

Monday, 27 June 2011

Yes. More opera tomorrow!

Tomorrow I'll be going to the last Rosenblatt Recital until September, Vuyani Mlinde, at St John's, Smith Square.

Here's a bit of background, a review, a short video and even an offer for tickets!  I'm hoping I get a chance to have a little chat with him after the concert, but if not, you'll find the review here.

If you do go, make sure to get a program.  They're the best I've ever seen; very informative and useful if you've never heard opera before, even if you have.

A little more Opera.....

Last night I attended a concert at Cadogan Hall.  A beautiful venue, always a pleasure to hear music there.

Opera UK were providing an evening of entertainment presented by Natalie Wheen.  Yes, that's her, the knowledgable and conversational presenter for Classic FM.  She clearly loves opera, and made sure we were all informed as to the arias, the background of the opera, characters, the composers etc.  Thank you Natalie!

Before I begin, I'd like to mention the person who is usually ignored or forgotten throughout performances like this, the accompanist Stephen Hose.  The evening was about music, the singers provided the voices, he provided the music for all of them.  As a highlight, his playing during Dvorak's 'Song to the Moon' was outstanding, to the point where I couldn't remember the orchestral version afterwards.

The program was romantic, no Haydn or Handel, and none the worse for that.  Mozart, Bizet, Puccini and Rossini. Verdi, Delibes, Lehar, Gounod and Bernstein.  A showcase for great voices, but also for opera too.  I won't list each piece, all will be familiar to any music lover, but there were some notable exceptions.  Adam Miller's rendition of 'Factotum' was made especially entertaining as he juggled oranges whilst singing a particularly difficult part.  'The Flower Duet' from Lakme, (Nicola Pulsford and Clare Presland) despite its relentless use in adverts was (for me) tear-jerking.  Clare Presland's rendition of the 'Segadilla' from Bizet's Carmen was wonderfully lusty.  The two most impressive pieces, for me, were Alison Guill's 'Song to the Moon' mentioned earlier, and Anando Mukerjee's 'Nessum Dorma'.

Although I've singled out a few favourite pieces, I haven't chosen a favourite singer, my choice was based upon my favourite songs and music.  All the singers were excellent and will be heard from in the future.  In fact, some of them are already making noises.

If there is one thing that the evening reminded me, it's that listening to music on the radio or CD is absolutely no substitute for hearing and seeing music live.

Another thing is that opera has a class thing attached to it.  Maybe it's seen as being a purely middle-class form of entertainment.  That may be true of the Royal Opera House (though you can get tickets for under £10 if you're quick enough) but there are many other places that offer opera, at much more affordable prices.  Not just in London either!

And a small bit of advice (I recently learnt), choose what you want to see, download the libretto/lyrics, look on Wikipedia for the story, get the general gist of what's going to happen, and then.................

......sit back and enjoy the music.

The performers were:

Belinda Evans
Alison Guill
Patrick Mundy
Adam Miller
Anando Mukerjee
Clare Presland
Nicola Pulsford

Great music and great company.