Hampstead Garden Opera at St Michael's Highgate
- Credit: David Winskill
Inspector Morse was a chap who enjoyed his opera. I wonder what he would have made of the opening words of Saturday’s first-rate concert: “Silently and stealthily In seeking his prey goes the wise hunter”?
Hampstead Garden Opera's rigorous but sensitive arrangements (temperature check, masks) were the precursor to their annual concert titled A Wonderful Dream.
The programme contained an abundance of themes for the inner miserabilist (imminent death, anticipated death, actual death, betrayal, blindness, infidelity, despondency) but also plenty of crowd pleasing uplifting pieces.
Just before the interval Rusnė Tušlaitė (the last-minute stand-in soprano from Lithuania) and counter-tenor Francis Gush delivered the gloriously tender and joyous While I look at you, I desire you from Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea. One of the most beautiful pieces in all opera, their superbly matched voices suited St Michael’s spectacular acoustic.
Wild-haired tenor Jack Roberts also exploited the potential of the space and left the audience spell-bound with his impassioned rendering of Donizetti’s Una furtiva lagrima (although it’s probably best to set aside moral objections to love potions!)
Dan d’Souza has a brilliantly rich and expressive baritone, and the audience sat up as he jumped onto the stage to fill the church with his remarkably passionate performance of Bellini’s Where can I now flee? Concert director Hanna Quinn’s piano drove this varied and carefully selected programme forward with wit and a clear understanding of the demands and strengths of each piece, while the excellent Philip Shepherd compered the evening with an easy authority.
After Rudolfo and Marcello (Jack and Dan) mourned their lost loves in the gorgeous duet from La Boheme, there was an opportunity to dissipate the melancholy with Strauss’s paean to Champagne – an ensemble piece sung with the all the gusto and fun that the work demands. The four soloists, together for the only time in the evening, threw themselves into the delivery with apparently well-rehearsed drinking skills.
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And like the performers, the audience went home happy. 4/5 stars.