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No praise too high for English Touring Opera at Snape

PUBLISHED: 18:22 04 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:22 04 November 2019

Seraglio performed by the English Touring Opera with Matthew Stiff (Osmin); Richard Pinkstone (Pedrillo)  Photo: Jane Hobson

Seraglio performed by the English Touring Opera with Matthew Stiff (Osmin); Richard Pinkstone (Pedrillo) Photo: Jane Hobson

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Review: Seraglio and Silver Lake, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, October 25-26

The Silver Lake performed by English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: Alastair MuirThe Silver Lake performed by English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: Alastair Muir

English Touring Opera never fail to challenge; nor do they disappoint. For this season's tour, James Conway, ETO's ever-inventive artistic director, alighted on three contrasting works that, in their differing ways, address the omniscient and eternal question 'how can we, as individuals, improve and enhance the common good?'

Mozart's Il Seraglio is set in a Turkish harem in Pasha Selim's palace, where Konstanze and her maid are held in comfortable captivity. John-Colyn Gyeantey, ardent and fulsome in voice immediately set the scene as he sought his beloved Konstanze. Enter the domineering but somewhat limited Osmin, superbly characterised and sung by Matthew Stiff and whose presence always provided an extra edge. Lucy Hall as Konstanze sang with outstanding clarity and brio in her coloratura arias and also demonstrated a steely resolve not to submit to the authority and desires of Selim. Without needing to sing a note, Alex Andreou still conveyed regal authority but with sufficient intelligence and self-awareness to finally grant the captives their freedom. Richard Pinkstone and Nazan Fikret inhabited the roles of Pedrillo and Blonde with an easy authority and the orchestra under John Andrews were attentive to every detail and nuance. Director Stephen Medcalf created a clean and intelligible production.

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The Silver Lake, a collaboration between Kurt Weill and Georg Kaiser, was premiered in a number of venues just as Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. It rapidly fell foul of the new regime and was banned: Weill headed for (ultimately) America and Kaiser for Switzerland. Conway's spare but effective staging coupled with strongly defined characters enabled the plot and moral to come to the fore.

Weill's engaging score immediately captured the attention; conductor James Holmes drew character and colour from all corners of the accomplished orchestra.

Principal vocalists David Webb, Ronald Samm, Clarissa Meek, Luci Briginshaw and James Kryshak were uniformly excellent, never putting a foot or vocal chord wrong. The singers of Aldeburgh Voices performed with real poise as they created the frozen lake.

Two superb talks by Andrews and Conway preceded and illuminated the operas. No praise is too high.

Gareth Jones

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