Homage to Viardot

Yesterday the Ensemble Studio put on a really nicely curated tribute to Pauline Viardot.  Viardot was a singer, pianist, composer and muse who was enormously influential in music circles in paris in the middle years of the 19th century.  She came from a famous musical family and was the younger sister of Maria Malibran. Her own work is little performed today although the Royal Conservatory did her Cendrillon in 2016.


Yesterday’s programme consisted of songs, and a piano piece by Viardot interspersed with works by composers she influenced; Rossini, Gounod and Gluck (by way of Berlioz).  The Viardot songs are pleasant enough and the “Habanera” from the 6 Mélodies et une havanaise gave Ariane Cossette and Midori Marsh a chance to do some pretty duetting.  There were more Viardot songs from Alex Halliday, Jonah Spungin, Alex hetherington and Ariane again as well as some virtuosic work on the piano from Brian Cho.  Queen Hezumuryango also gave us a dramatic aria from Gounod’s little performed opera Sapho.

alexPerhaps ironically though the most interesting parts of the show were from Viardot’s repertoire as a singer.  Midori Marsh was really quite spectacular (if maybe a bit over the top) in “Una voce poco fa”.  Better still, Alex Hetherington resurrected Viardot’s role in Berlioz’ reworking of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurdiice.  Specifically she sang “J’ai perdu mon Euridice” with the ornaments etc as marked in Viardot’s own score.  There’s a tendency nowadays to play down ornamentation, cadenzas etc and it’s good to hear how the music was probably originally done.  Odd how the “composer’s original intention” crowd don’t seem to care about it!

All of this was linked together by an informative and witty commentary from Alex and Queen and polished off with the last few moments of Cendrillon staged by Anna Theodakis with Midori as La Fée and Ariane as Cenfrillon.

Photo credits: Karen E. Reeves


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