Review: Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance1:19, 4th September 2019
Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance
Royal Opera House, 21 July 2019
Review by Louise Flind
The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance played to a packed Royal Opera House audience on a warm Sunday lunchtime. It was a sell-out because these young artists are probably the best around – and press, global managements, family, friends and keen ROH punters wouldn’t miss it for the world. The pressure is on, therefore, to perform at the highest level.
The ROH’s training programme is regarded as one of the most prestigious in the world, with 10 singers, four music staff and a stage director engaged on a two-year rolling basis. Immersed in the life of an opera house, they get to perform alongside some of the finest exponents in the operatic field.
For this showcase, the JPYAs performed seven scenes from an array of operas chosen to display their full potential on the stage, with scenery, lights and costumes. The scenes were expertly rehearsed by the one JPYA director, Noa Naamat. On the whole they worked although Pelléas et Mélisande had an odd pairing: Chinese mezzo Hongni Wu, in the role of Mélisande, has a well-rounded, weighty mezzo sound, while Dominic Sedgwick as Pelléas was drowned out by the large ROH orchestra. They both came into their own two numbers later in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, with Wu as a supple-sounding Rosina and Sedgwick with delightfully warm tone as Figaro, this time easily audible in Rossini patter (he would make a good Raimbaud in Rossini’s Comte Ory). Thando Mjandana brought slick comic timing to Almaviva.
Meanwhile the bass-baritone Michael Mofidian blossomed as Golaud (in Pelléas) adeptly darkening his voice for this sinister role (he’d be a fine Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress). This came after Mofidian had opened proceedings as Figaro (Mozart): he got through the first duet with Susanna but came unstuck in ‘Se vuol ballare’ – he so obviously has a lovely voice but at that moment didn’t have the confidence to use it to its full. Not so his Susanna, Chilean soprano Yaritza Véliz, who has a clear, musical sound with a hint of knowing that it’s perfect for the role. She’d be a lovely Zdenka in Strauss’s Arabella. Meanwhile the conductor Patrick Milne took the Marriage of Figaro overture at a breakneck speed that would bring many orchestras to their knees. Just as well he was in the driving seat of the ROH orchestra – probably classical music’s answer to a Lamborghini.
Milne went on to conduct Orfeo keeping the tempo steady – he’s certainly a class act especially in these nerve-wracking situations. Orfeo was sung by Patrick Terry and sadly it wasn’t his day – his vibrato widened with nerves and he lost the text as a result, although you can’t miss the allure in his voice. By the end of ‘Che farò’ he managed to ease out some beautiful legato lines and nailed the higher tessitura. He would be a fabulous Bertarido in Rodelinda. His Euridice was the American soprano Jacquelyn Stucker. She has an edge to her voice that I don’t think Euridice needs, and she tends to swallow the notes. Nevertheless, their voices blended superbly.
Performing isolated scenes is challenging: there’s no run-up to a big aria, therefore it’s revealing and demanding. None of this seemed to phase Aigul Akhmetshina who opened the second half in Dalila’s big aria, launching herself with ease over the huge orchestration brilliantly conducted by James Hendry. She, Hendry and Germán E Alcántara, who sang the High Priest of Dagon, are hot, hot talent. She has a dark quality to her voice and shone dramatically on stage; Alcántara has a velvety sound mixed with irresistible virility – a Don Giovanni for sure.
Two Verdis rounded off proceedings. To start, a scene from Rigoletto with Haegee Lee as Gilda. She has a doll-like quality to her appearance matched with lovely silvery singing. And Konu Kim as the Duke – while he has nearly an Italianate tenorino sound, he lets himself down by evidently having listened to (and copied) too many Caruso recordings. Chuma Sijeqa sang too brief a snippet from Rigoletto for me to be able to pass judgement.
The ensemble finished off with the finale from Falstaff and again the star was in the pit – James Hendry conducted with accomplished zest, thrillingly allowing these young singers to emerge triumphant from this experience.