Your clickable banner could be here: details
   
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


 

Editor: Marc Bridle

 

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

 

 

                    

Google

WWW MusicWeb


Search Music Web with FreeFind




Any Review or Article


 

 

Seen and Heard Concert Review

 

Puccini’s ‘Suor Angelica’ (December 7th and 9th) and Opera Scenes (December 3rd and 10th), Bruntwood Opera Theatre, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (RJF)


The RNCM School of Opera and vocal Studies presents its major annual opera production each March. In 2005 this will be Rossini’s La Cenerentola, his version of the Cinderella story and after Il Barbiere di Siviglia his most popular operatic work. By March, final year students of the four year undergraduate course, together with post graduate students, are expected to be ready to take on fully staged roles in a big production, with full orchestra, in the College’s opera theatre. Such skills do not develop overnight. As well as vocal tutoring there are components on acting and movement in the courses. These combined skills need to be practised and what better way than in the opera theatre in front of the public? To this end, at the conclusion of the summer and autumn terms the student assessments are carried out via staged and costumed opera scenes with conductor and piano accompaniment. At this time of year these opera scenes are complimented by a production of a shorter opera with full orchestra. It was perhaps apt, for both the students concerned as well as the public attending, without charge for the opera scenes, that two distinguished alumni were in town as part of an international cast who presented Elijah to a packed Bridgewater Hall. The two, Sarah Fulgoni and Mary Plazas, who have trod the boards of the great opera houses of the world, made a significant vocal contribution to a magnificent performance and were a reminder of what a fine training establishment the RNCM is.


This year the short opera chosen was Puccini’s realisation of the harrowing story of Suor Angelica to which he gave a rather sugary ending. The opera is the middle one of the three one act operas he premiered at The Metropolitan Opera, New York, on December 14th 1918. These were Puccini’s last completed operatic works, Turandot being incomplete at the time of his death. The story concerns Sister Angelica who, unknown to her colleagues, was forced to take the veil after the birth of her illegitimate son. Forced to give up the child after the birth she has, for seven years, longed for news from home. Her aunt, the austere and unbending Principessa arrives to demand that Angelica sign over inheritance to her sister who is shortly to be married. Angelica pleads for news of her son. Without emotion or compassion she is told that he died two years before. She collapses distraught. After the departure of the Principessa, Angelica prepares and drinks an herb poison. Realising that she has committed a second mortal sin she prays to the Virgin for forgiveness. She witnesses a vision of her son in the care of the Madonna who sends him forward to be re-united with his mother as she dies.


The sets were simple but adaptable, the well in the cloister quickly becoming the table at which the Principessa sat. The trellises growing the necessary herbs were quickly flown and back lighting of a drop gauze affectingly created the vision of the child and the Madonna. The opera is an ideal vehicle for a dozen female voices, each with a part to act and three of which are principal parts carrying the main solo singing. The director, Jennifer Hamilton, moved, grouped and organised the singers in a thoroughly natural manner that was wholly convincing. The three principal roles of Angelica, the Principessa and Suor Genovieffa were doubled over the two evenings that the opera was given. At the performance I attended Kate Brian sang the role of Angelica. Aged 24, she is a student of Caroline Crawshaw whose list of past tutored singers is formidable. Two years ago Kate sang Donna Anna in the College’s major production of Don Giovanni and when I found her a little wooden in her acting and less than wholly secure at the top of her voice. As Angelica she sang a fully toned and vocally coloured portrayal whilst her acting was consummate. Her use of face and hands in pursuit of characterisation were excellent. She will be disappointed the she missed one, only one, high C as she exited. Dominica Mattheews sang the Principessa. Another student of Caroline Crawshaw she is an Australian who won several competitions in her own country. She is due to sing the eponymous role in the spring Rossini. Her physical portrayal of the austere Principessa could not be faulted and was backed by a richly coloured and fully toned mezzo voice. The less demanding soprano role of Genovieffa was well sung by Michaela Bloom also from Australia. There were no significant vocal weaknesses in the other singers who all moved and acted with conviction. The German conductor Lancelot Fuhry paced and phrased Puccini’s relatively lean orchestration well, allowing the singers space for their phrasing; an art many conductors brought up on the concrete platform never acquire.


The first night of Opera Scenes included extracts from Lucia di Lamermoor, Don Pasquale, La Traviata and Un Ballo in Maschera. All, like Suor Angelica sung in Italian. There were notable sung and acted performances from Rhys Jenkins and Hervé Goffings as Pasquale and Malatesta. Gillian Ramm’s singing and acting as Violetta in the act II confrontations with Germont pére was excellent, her light flexible but expressive soprano contrasted nicely with the fuller tones of Rachel Russell as Amelia in the following extract from Ballo. Rachel’s ‘Morro, ma prima in grazia’ was well launched and her full tones indicate a promising lyrico spinto voice. However, the voice of the evening was that of Mario Solimene as Renato. His singing of ‘Eri tu’ was quite outstanding with firm tone, good diction and a wide range of colour. The best Verdi baritone singing I have heard at the college, and a good few other places too, for some time. A second year post graduate from South America, his bearing and histrionic gifts match his vocal qualities. A singer name I will watch and listen out for in the next few years.


On the second evening of Opera Scenes we had a repeat of the Lucia scene, but with different singers, an extract from Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West with a promising tenor in Simon Buttle and a Minnie of colour and heft from Claire Groom. Scenes 1, 7 and the finale from act II of Don Giovanni completed the evening. The histrionic tour de force of these three scenes, and the best singing, came from the bass baritone Rhys Jenkins, the Malatesta of the first evening. He is a postgraduate student and his comic Leporello really had everything one would hope for in a professional performance. He is a born actor, who can colour and inflect his firm well-controlled voice whilst giving vent to a variety of emotions with both ease and fluency. Another promising career that I will watch with interest.


On the basis of these three evenings, I look forward to RNCMs alumni gracing the boards of opera houses in all parts of the world in the coming years as they do now, and have done since the standards so firmly established by Frederic Cox.


Robert J Farr

 



 

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page


 





   

 

 

 

MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here




EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Past and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.