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Friday 6 July 2012

Brynfest at the Royal Festival Hall


Ho hum, sort of a hum drum evening this. I don't know why I'm surprised... I saw the repertoire, didn't book the first time despite the singers, but couldn't resist the £20 Timeout offer. They were filming it which explains the desire to fill seats, but there were still loads of empty ones. Is it that Bryn no longer has the power to fill the RFH? Or was it just the poor repertoire?

(Please note that the Royal Festival Hall has a very strange accoustic which does singers no favours, so bear that in mind with the comments - I have too)

The repertoire choices were a bit mystefying - Mostly italian, with a few French things (and the Eugene Onegin Waltz of all things). Although he's always sung this repertoire, it's not exactly what he's known for - I would have thought that a bleeding chunk from Wagner, and possibly some Mozart (does he still sing this?) would have been more appropriate as the main body of this evening, with some French and Italian stuff chucked in. As it was, we got a series of very short, rather light snippets that never seemed to amount to much. Bryn himself was in rather leathery voice and I don't know if this just reflects his current vocal condition or whether he was having an off night. It's lost colour and resonance, and I don't like that he shouts so much, not something he used to have to do, though the sound is still recognisably him. A little disappointing as I would consider myself an ardent fan of his in the right rep. That said, look below for the underwhelming repertoire choices - Miei rampolli femminini from La Cenerentola? Really? Why?

Here's what was performed, just because I don't want to talk through it piece by piece. Maybe I should do this anyway in future reviews.
Giuseppe Verdi: Overture, I vespri siciliani
Giuseppe Verdi: Pietà, rispetto, amore from Macbeth
Giuseppe Verdi: Ecco l'orrido campo from Un ballo in maschera
Gaetano Donizetti: Pour mon âme from La Fille du Regiment
Gioachino Rossini: Una voce poco fa from The Barber of Seville
Giuseppe Verdi: Noi siamo zingarelli from La Traviata
Georges Bizet: Je crois entendre from The Pearl Fishers
Giacomo Puccini: Vissi d'arte from Tosca
Giacomo Puccini: Te Deum from Tosca
Gioachino Rossini: Miei rampolli femminini from La Cenerentola
Gioachino Rossini: Si, ritrovarla, io giuro from La Cenerentola
Gioachino Rossini: Nacqui all'affanno from La Cenerentola
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Waltz scene from Eugene Onegin
Arrigo Boito: L'altra notte in fondo al mare from Mefistofele
Arrigo Boito: Son lo spirito che nega from Mefistofele
Giuseppe Verdi: Tre volte miagola la gatta (Witches chorus) from Macbeth
Pietro Mascagni: Easter Hymn from Cavalleria rusticana
Georges Bizet: Duet, Au fond du temple saint from The Pearl Fishers
Encore: quartet from Rigoletto
Bryn Terfel bass-baritone
Oksana Dyka soprano
Elizabeth DeShong mezzo-soprano
Lawrence Brownlee tenor
Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Chorus of Welsh National Opera
Gareth Jones conductor

Oksana Dyka was ok - she has a gorgeous top which is huge and very rounded, but in the middle the power falls away, and there's no lower register to speak of. Vissi d'arte was squally, but strangely, L'altra notte in fondo al mare wasn't at all - she was at her best there I thought. Hard to judge properly in such small bursts of singing though, so I suspend judgement.

This is the first time I have seen Lawrence Brownlee live. In a way it's amazing what he can do, but I found him rather dull. I found his tone monocromatic - the vibrato is identical everywhere and he manages to make every vowel have the same colour. It's a rather soft edged voice, and the top comes so easily that it just doesn't thrill. It might just be that the RFH was simply too cavernous to do his voice (or anyone else's) justice. Both he and Bryn were at their best though during the final number - the famous Pearlfishers duet, where both finally seemed a bit freer vocally.

Thank god for Elizabeth Deshong! She jumped in last minute to replace another (ill) mezzo. I've written about her before here and elsewere, but I just need to reiterate how wonderful this voice is. Gorgeously even throughout the range, agile, MASSIVE chest register, ultra shiny radiant top, and charming to boot. I very much like what she does interpretively too, she colours things nicely, her dynamic choices excellent, and the coloratura can be heroic sounding or tossed off (i.e. she can choose to add weight or not) which is very good. I feel the one thing currently missing is textual acuity - if she took more risks with this I would be even happier. On the way home this evening I was wondering whether she'll be the composer in next season's Glyndebourne Ariadne and this thought filled me with joy, but that is somewhere where text is of paramount importance. I'm not sure if it's an ideal Strauss mezzo voice (both the composer and Octavian were designated soprano parts originally and as a result sit very high) but I don't mind finding out.

One thing - both of the arias she sang are meant to be from rather meek, sweet, girlish characters, admittedly both with a strong core, but though she sings them wonderfully, the voice is anything but meek and mild. Rossini seems to suit so well though, so would love to see her in the "serious" Rossini roles. Would she consider Armida? A soprano role officially, but low lying.

Overall this evening was only really worth it for the contributions from DeShong and that lovely final duet. I would not have been happy had I paid full price.

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