John Tomlinson hardly needs introducing, but suffice it to say that he's one of my favourite currently performing singers. Yes, the voice is now well past its prime, but he's one of opera's best singing actors in my opinion, always living completely inside a role, nothing extraneous, nothing overwrought, we're never in any doubt about the musical and dramatic intent, and his presence and impact are always massive. And despite the serious vocal wear I still enjoy hearing that huge voice in Wagner with its virtually bottomless depth and superb diction. Some people see him as a thunderer and find him lacking in subtlety, but I have to say I've never seen this side of him.
|credit: Robert Workman|
I was most impressed by Ross Ramgobin, a young baritone with immensely finessed vocal control, capable of some very beautiful singing. Timbrally I was reminded of Kaufmann, that is, somewhere between a tenor and a baritone sound, but especially that special focussed intimacy in quiet passages, and he's well on his way interpretively too. He sang O du mein holder Abendstern from Tannhauser very nicely, but with a little too much Italianate squillo, and not enough quiet rapture and innigkeit. Because the technical apparatus was so secure, Tomlinson was able to instruct his student on a higher level, and Ramgobin was able to effect significant changes immediately and really improved his interpretation in the short space of time that they worked together. Ramgobin is one to watch.
Tereza Gevorgyan is also an interesting singer. She sang Quando m'en vo from La Boheme with flirtatious swagger and with an astonishing intensity in the sound considering how slender her frame is. Tomlinson's comments chimed exactly with Barbara Bonney's comments on the attitude that this aria requires - there's no need for Musetta to moon around and be overly flirtatious - she knows her power and barely needs to move to be captivating and the centre of attention. Tomlinson identified a tendency to sing slightly flat in the passagio, but simply focussing on becoming conscious of this, not pressing, and making the sound shimmer and spin on the sharp side of the note was the difference between "OK, and classic". He was right - just this small change made these sections much more beautiful. Gevorgyan's voice is attractively full, with an especially lovely lower register - occasionally the top is over vibrant and too intense for comfort - though with more vocal support Tomlinson coaxed her into singing quieter. Her Donizetti (so anch'io la virtu magica) was delightful. She's not yet as finished as Ramgobin but she's definitely got something unique.
Not the most enlightening afternoon, but certainly enjoyable. One sensed that Tomlinson might have worked better on interpretive matters and acting with more finished singers, as these have always been his strengths, but there was still much to be gleaned here.