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Ambitious project on a small stage and poorly lit; Reviews.

Byline: Maggie Cotton

Birmingham Chamber Orchestra

Atrix Art Centre, Bromsgrove

***

A concert performance of opera is, by the nature of the beast, almost always bound to be disappointing. Unfortunately, this was the case for Verdi's Rigoletto, enacted on too small a stage, with appalling lighting and overwhelming orchestra. Singers' faces were in dark shadow, but then if appropriate illumination had been set, the instrumentalists would inevitably have been dazzled. This is a no win situation.

Added to this, the singers were rarely able to see conductor Martin Leigh's efforts to give them cues, as he was behind them, therefore not in anyone's sight-lines. However, this was no reason for the orchestra not to give clean entries and tidy accompaniments. One suspects that not enough rehearsal time had been expended on this ambitious project, personal or orchestral.

Clear (English) text was a blessing from Kevin McRae as Rigoletto, which along with some convincing acting made for a powerful performance, although there were frequent occasions when his placing of repeated notes in particular, were under pitch.

Zoe Milton-Brown's dramatic Gilda complemented both Rigoletto and Jonathan Stoughton's Duke. Her wide-ranging coloratura episodes, including bell-like high C's, thrilled, contrasting with lyrical filial passages.

Stoughton has a fine presentation, but needs to be more expressive, particularly during emotional moments, seemingly more anxious to portray a well-placed loud voice. Vocal quartets were well balanced in spite of out-of-context reference to scores, and Jonathan Pusgley's unenviable 'bit' part highlighted a rich voice.

This opera is laced with familiar tunes, opportunities for underlying solo cello arpeggios, lugubrious clarinet, delightful flute solos and stirring brass. And finally, the orchestra shone in a truly convincing storm from first woodwind rain flurries to a fulsome downpour as the predictable tragedy unfolded.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Article Type:Concert review
Date:Jul 24, 2007
Words:290
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