Tuesday, 9 March 2010


7/3/10, Channing School, Highgate

A reprise of last year's fundraiser for the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institute. Robert Lloyd, celebrating his 70th birthday (we sang Happy Brithday at the end with a lack of vigour and tunelessness which would not have disgraced a Church of England congregation), and four young singers from the Jette Parker scheme at Covent Garden, once again accompanied by Steven Moore.

They were better actors than last time. The little soprano, Eri Nakamura from Japan, who is cast as Susannah in Covent Garden's forthcoming Marriage of Figaro, had a wonderfully animated face though she hasn't yet learnt how to use it. The baritone, Dawid Kimberg from South Africa, I thought a little stolid though D was very impressed. The tenor, Robert Anthony Gardiner, English, with dark floppy hair, imperial and 'tache, certainly looked the part, but alas came adrift in his first solo aria (Almaviva's Ecco ridente from the Barber of Seville) and took a while to recover his confidence. The mezzo, Kai Ruutel from Estonia, was large and blonde and statuesque and looked initially as if she might be rather wooden but turned out to be very expressive, and very good at using her eyes (she also wore not one but two splendid strapless numbers).

But Lloyd once again acted them off the stage. There's nothing subtle about his acting, no doubt designed to impress the most distant balcony in the world's biggest opera houses, but he is brilliant at telegraphing emotion, and throws himself into the thing with wonderful abandon. Once again I was struck too by what hard work this kind of singing is, especially for a man of his age: it leaves him quite breathless.

His presentation wasn't quite as sparkling as last year, when I fear he used up all his best jokes, but he was still charming.

The programming was a bit shaky. Lots of jolly Donizetti and Rossini in the first half (no fewer than four areas and a trio from the Barber of Seville), but then in the second half of the second half Lensky's very sombre "Kuda, kuda" sung by the tenor before the duel in Eugene Onegin followed by a splendidly dramatic duet by Kimberg as the Marquis of Posa and Lloyd as the King from Don Carlos which required more concentration to appreciate than I had left after more than two hours and a good lunch (supplied beforehand by S). We agreed those two should have come at the end of the first half.

But they sang some jolly encores. The tenor's was "You are my heart's delight" in the original German, which pleased me greatly: he sang it more mellifluously than Tauber.

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