It was billed as an evening for newcomers and it delivered, dazzling them with a line-up of classy young singers, a world-class repetiteur and a slickly staged set of pieces. But it also worked for the aficionados in that the chosen pieces were certainly known yet not only Boheme and Butterfly, but also Rodelinda and Cendrillon – my only gripe was there was one too many in each half although you couldn’t fault the pianist Robin Humphreys who, along with director Lissa Lorenzo kept the action moving swiftly between the numbers. It was a cleverly crafted programme, and the arias flowed neatly on from one another with Lorenzo, acting as compere, announcing them in groups – the first lot involving kings and queens, she dubbed ‘Game of Thrones.’
Whenever Clonter is unearthed from its Northern roots, it rightly receives huge commendation for its work, namely paving the way between music schools and the big wide world by running courses where a singer can learn a role and perform it publicly. This is not such an original idea any more with opera houses themselves running young singers’ programmes. However, it was back in 1974, when Jeffery Lockett, a young singer himself at the time, invited Abbey Opera Group to perform in his barn. Possibly because of his own experience, Clonter’s residential artistic programme was born and due to his tireless audition process and talent for spotting young artists, Clonter has since been on the operatic map.
Last night’s talent didn’t disappoint. A line-up of three girls and two boys, they sang arias and duets, with skilfully light staging by Lorenzo. Working with the repertoire and these artists, Lorenzo paired them perfectly for duets. Tall Catalan tenor Eduard Mas Bacardit and tiny Spanish soprano Lorena Paz Nieto were authentically delightful in Breton’s La Verbena de la Paloma, while the more Northern (Anglo-Scottish) baritone Thomas Humphreys and Estonian soprano Mirjam Mesak were well matched in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and (even better) Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. The lonesome mezzo Bianca Andrew opened the evening in a show-stopping red halter neck gown with ‘Nobles Seigneurs, Salut!’ from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots – aptly French bearing in mind the mirrored Louis Quatorze setting, her softly-rounded mezzo is intrinsically suited to this music, and she has an easy upper register and with her boyish good looks she’d be a gorgeous Cherubino. Interestingly a scout from the Royal Opera House’s young artist programme was at the concert.
This is an exposed venue for young artists as well as being a boomy one. Mirjam Mesak initially sang Ilia’s ‘Padre! germani! addio!’ from Mozart’s Idomeneo impressively having no problem with the tessitura as her voice lies high, but there’s an edge to the sound – as the evening wore on, she got louder and louder and really only came back into her own in the musical numbers – she’d be an exciting Donna Anna and even a Constanze. Her fellow soprano Lorena Paz Nieto has a smaller voice and sang Tornami a vagheggiar from Handel’s Alcina cleanly and crisply but again her inbuilt projection nearly played against her in close proximity, but she has huge charm and vitality on stage. The baritone Thomas Humphreys took some time to settle and by aria four, the sublime Ideale by Tosti, he was velveteen in tone. The one to watch in my book was the tenor Eduard Mas Bacardit who opened with the beautiful Fatty inferno…… ‘Pastorello d’un povero amento’ from Handel’s Rodelinda and sang meltingly legato lines – he’s a clean almost pretty sounding tenor with a firm Italianate tone, a natural stage presence and is quite easy on the eye too….
They ended with ‘The Saga of Jenny’ from Weill’s Lady in the Dark again choregraphed lightly by Lorenzo but ‘musical’ enough so they repeated the finale in true musical style – a hat’s off moment to a great evening.
image_description=Clonter Opera Gala [Photo by Jack Thompson]
product_title=Clonter Opera Gala
product_by=A review by Louise Flind
product_id=Above: Clonter Opera Gala [Photo by Jack Thompson]