From Studio to Stage (Royal Opera House)
The end of term performance for the Jette Parker Young Artists took place last Sunday at The Royal Opera House, where the nine singers who have been part of the company's programme to nurture young operatic voices stepped into the spotlight to showcase their vocal talent. In addition to the singers there were two conductors, a director and a lighting designer who were also part of the Programme, not forgetting the unflappable David Syrus, the company's head of music who kept a steady hand on the tiller in the pit.
One set has to suffice for all the operatic excerpts, and this year it happened to be from Puccini's La Rondine – set here in a 1920s' art deco hotel bar/lobby which not surprisingly worked better for some of the scenes, than it did others, all stage for the occasion by Pedro Ribeiro.
The first half of the evening was made up of the Overture and an extract from Act One of Die Zauberflote, a Duet from Act One of Donizetti's Anna Bolena and an extract from the second act of L'elisir d'amore. It didn't help that all three were played out in Stygian gloom, with the auditorium lights off (lighting design James Simpson) – the unrelenting darkness became weary on the eye, especially as many of the characters were decked out in blacks and greys as well.
But the singing was splendid. Paul Wingfield conducted a sprightly overture to Die Zauberflote whilst soprano Dusica Bikelic and baritone Michel de Souza were delightful as Pamina and Papageno. Mezzo-soprano Justina Gringyte was a fiery Jane Seymour in the extract from ‘Anna Bolena', revealing a wonderfully smoky tone, and she delivered the coloratura fearlessly. She was well partnered with Jihoon Kim as a sonorous Henry VIII.
Tenor Pablo Bemsch then went on to deliver a melting account of Nemorino's Una furtiva lagrima, his innate musicality being matched by soprano Susana Gaspar's plucky Adina.
After the interval mezzo soprano Hanna Hipp was joined on stage by pianist Helen Nicholas to deliver a strong and impassioned account of Mozart's concert aria Ch'io mi scordi di te which was followed by the Overture and Act 1, scene 1 of Eugene Onegin. Dusica Bijelic (Tatyana), Justina Gringyte (Madame Larina), Hanna Hipp (Olga), Pablo Bemsch (Lensky) and Ashley Riches (Onegin) made a mellifluous ensemble and were ably conducted by Michele Gamba.
To round off the afternoon we were treated to an extract from Act II of La Rondine, which overall was hugely enjoyable and successful. It certainly helped that that the stage was now flooded with light and that we were in the opera's rightful setting. All the singers threw themselves into their parts, sang their hearts out, and gave proof that there's plenty of burgeoning operatic talent just waiting in the wings.