Today’s noon recitalists in the RBA were Andrew Haji and Liz Upchurch. We had been promised Britten’s Serenade but an absence of non-knackered horn players due to the COC’s Götterdämmerung run scuppered that and instead we got a very varied program of songs and arias on the theme of love and its travails. Four Brahms songs kicked things off and produced some very fine lieder singing. Beautiful throughout with fine phrasing, characterisation and diction there was more. The final “wonnewoll” of Wie bist du, meine Königin was a thing of floaty beauty and there was a real sense of ecstasy in Mein Liebe ist grün.
Three Duparc songs followed. Two were perhaps in the same vein but the middle song Le manoir due Rosemonde was much more dramatic. Both performers easily cranked it up a notch here. We weren’t entirely deprived of Britten either. Andrew changed gears again to produce utterly idiomatic readings of The Ash Grove, with its tricky piano part expertly navigated, and The Salley Gardens. OK (pace Ms. Perovic) I was really tearing up here but I got as much fun out of a beautifully timed The Foggy, Foggy Dew as the rest of a fairly full house. I think Sir Thomas Allen was the last person to sing that in the RBA and to compare anyone’s comic timing with his is praise of the highest.
Then it was onto opera. Gear shift again. The Romantic Tenor (capital T,R) appears to sing a plangent De’ miei bollenti spiriti from La traviata, En fermant les yeux from Manon and Dein ist mein ganzes Herz. There were days when record companies would have been queuing up to make 78s of singing like this. It being Valentine’s Day, for an encore, he pulled his cunningly concealed date, Vania Margani, from the front row of the audience to give us a delightful duet from La Bohème.
There are days when one wonders whether the opera house wasn’t just built one subway stop too far north.
Photocredits: Karen E. Reeves