Scottish Opera / National Opera Studio – Showcase
**** (4 stars)
Well, it did exactly what it said on the tin, and showcased the talents of the current crop of students at the National Opera Studio in a series of extracts from a wide range of operas. It was most interesting to see particular singers go off-stage having finished one excerpt and reappear instantly in a different role and a different language – this helped highlight what did and didn’t suit each singer, and seemed to give more of the spotlight to some that to others [why only one appearance from the counter-tenor, for example?]
There were some good bits, some interesting bits, some very good bits, and some extremely good ones, with a few outstanding individual performances – in particular baritone Jake Muffett who was a superb Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and an equally accomplished Count in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro – he’ll undoubtedly be a magnetic Figaro in that, too. Tiny soprano Ana-Maria Bacanu kept re-appearing and making a stunning impact whatever she sang – most particularly a heart-rending Rodelinda bidding farewell to the husband she’d thought was dead and with whom she’d just been re-united [trust Handel to write truly gut-wrenching music for that scene!] and the heartless Adina in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, rejecting Nemorino’s protestations of true love [glad that she gets her comeuppance later in the opera] and finally as Susanna pretending to agree to the Count’s proposed assignation – a superb, though brief duet: and then suddenly the show was over…
There was a lot of rope and string, well used as props which linked one scene to another – though at times one could become more interested in what was being done with it than in what was being sung…
I wasn’t wildly impressed by the scene from Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, not because of poor singing but because the sentiments being expressed really pissed me off – “how cruel men are to teach us love…then ride away while we still yearn” – presenting women as helpless and two-dimensional puppets… I found the subsequent scene from Peter Grimes much more compelling – and showcasing the brilliant playing of the orchestra of Scottish Opera as they created the sounds and movement of the sea and subsequent rising storm. Tenor Roberto Barbaro made the cruelly high lines seem easy, and gave the sound a lot more welly than some tenors I won’t name. He was less pleasing to listen to in the extract from Cosi, when his voice lacked the smooth roundedness to cope with the flowing melodic lines: he didn’t entirely convince me as a successful lover, either – but then maybe this is part of the plot which it wasn’t really possible to portray fully in that one scene.
Charlie Drummond and Margo Arsane were well-cast as the card-consulting gypsies Frasquita and Mercedes, and Marvic Monreal sang Carmen’s brooding solo well, though with a little too much vibrato for my taste. I wasn’t convinced by her ‘sulky street kid’ attitude: hopefully she will mature into this role. Margo Arsane returned to be the feisty and quick-witted Rosina to Jake Muffet’s Figaro in the duet where she learns her love for the ‘student’ who’s been serenading her is returned.
A most pleasant evening and a lot of very promising names to look out for, which bodes well for the future of opera.
Scottish Opera / National Opera Studio – Showcase – Kings Theatre Edinburgh, Run Ended.
Review by Mary Woodward