25th Anniversary Celebration Concert
British Youth Opera
Last night, British Youth Opera celebrated its 25th anniversary at Cadogan Hall with a star-studded cast of alumni and more recent graduates keen to follow in their footsteps.
Peter Robinson, artistic director / conductor / compère, regaled us with tales form the preceding years as a mixed bag of arias and scenes were trotted out onstage. Accompanied beautifully at all times by English Chamber Orchestra, it was a real pleasure to spend an evening where nothing dropped below an extremely high bar, and many soloists soared even higher.
Amongst the 34 soloists performing 16 numbers there were highlights a-plenty. After a brilliant Billy Budd performed by Benedict Nelson, the first half grew to a suitable climax with an exciting Otello duet. David Kempster and Ronald Samm bowled over the seasoned opera crowd with dramatic intensity and faultless vocal production.
Following the interval, a lively quintet from Die Zauberflaute "Hm! Hm! Hm!" showed off the fabulous David Stout (Papegano) and David Butt Philip (Tamino). The lighter material continued with a wonderful rendition of "Vilja" from Lehar’s Merry Widow, sang sublimely by Stephanie Corley.
An exciting soprano to watch is Sioned Gwen Davis. This mid-twenties soprano performed with BYO just last year but she is already zooming up the ranks. She is sumptuous vocally, her tone creamy and full which is on a par with the stars from far more experienced generations onstage in this gala.
Rosemary Joshua rounds up the Alumni soloists with the famous Susanna aria "Deh vieni non tardar" to tumultuous applause. Joshua performed in the first ever BYO performance, and is now an international star, performing at the Met, Convent Garden and La Scala to name just a few.
As a reason to fund British Youth Opera’s work, this illustrious cast certainly proved that BYO can sniff out young talent. Having offered many of these now sought after artists their first major roles, Peter Robinson is right to reminisce with some pride.
The final number of the night is Bernstein’s uplifting "Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide. It certainly highlights that the alumni soloists are well beyond their chorus days; vocally this rendition was powerfully bewitching, but musically all over the place.
Despite flaws, when the alumni chorus plus thirty-odd soloists delivered Bernstein’s number, it was a spine-tingling end to a glittering evening of opera highlights.
Reviewer: Louise Lewis