EVENING EXPRESS, Aberdeen
La Boheme at His Majesty's at Hilton
Despite sparse, simple sets and a stripped-down, 10-man orchestra, the
Hand Made Opera Company lost none of the passion of Puccini's classic.
a vibrant Paris of the late 1960s Puccini's popular tragic-comedy was superbly played
by a young cast and ably conducted by Gulliver Ralston. Focusing on the doomed relationships
between writer Rodolfo and young seamstress Mimi, the finale was truly moving.
Raskin's Rodolfo excelled in both the comic and tragic moments of the four-act opera.
But it was Jane Streeton, as Mimi, who stole the show in the finale as she returned
to her estranged lover, racked with TB and on the verge of death.
Hand Made Opera and Orchestra
Paul D Harrison
With its comparatively modest requirements, The Barber
of Seville, a knockabout comedy if ever there was one, works well with the kind of
restrictions imposed here; namely and orchestra of only 10 players and, this being
a church, a distinct lack of space (this is not to sugest that it shouldn't be given
the full works either).
The action was well stage managed so that things moved swiftly
and even scene changes were almost imperceptibly integrated into the fabric of performance.
The comic element also received its due with even shades of flapper-style frolics
colouring their sparkling take of the finale to Act One, as a result of the fact
that the story had been reset in the 1920s.
Colin Baldy (also producing) made a splendidly
fusty Dr Bartolo and a perfect foil for confident man-about-town Figaro (Mark Oldfield)
while Jane Streeton quivered and sighed as the lovesick Rosina. Tom Raskin had what
was needed for the plaintive tenor arias that Rossini gives Almaviva. One of the
highlights of this production was Adrian Hutton's scheming Don Basilio, even frightening
his partner in crime Bartolo. The instrumental support was super here in the so-called
"calumny" aria with the strings imparting a delicious anticipatory frisson to the
music under the baton of Nicholas Chalmers.
Kathy Taylor Jones and Maciek O'Shea provided
reliable support in the minor roles. Even the Minster's present incumbent Ian Ellery
turned up at the end to lawfully join the happy pair. This final event of the Howden
Festival has crowned a week of unusual interest.
Hande Made Orchestra and Consort
Paul D Harrison
This curiously named group derives from Hand Made Opera
which dates from the year 2000, making its first appearance at the Howden Festival
this year after.
Instrumentally speaking they fielded seven players comprising oboe,
lute and strings playing modern instruments with some succession towards period performance
habits whilst four singers joined in the final item.
Bach's output of more than 300
cantatas is surprisingly varied, given the 209 which have survived. It is easy to
see why Ich habe genug BWV 82 (For the Feast of the Purification of Mary) is among
the more popular, with its gravely beautiful string orchestration and mellow baritone
solos. Colin Baldy was the soloist delivering a tidy performance notable for its
good intonation and diction.
He was confidently articulate but just occasionally his
quieter passages disappeared beneath the accompaniment.
James Bowman was the pliant
alto soloist in Widerstehe doch der Sunde BWV 54 (For the Seventh Sunday after Trinity),
his expressive singing finding answer in the orchestra's playing, but even some of
his phrase endings seemed to sometimes disappear into the rafters. He blended well
with the other singers in the final cantata offering BWV 159.
A mandolin makes a tiny
sound in a church, but Taro Takeuchi, forsaking his orchestral flute, easily held
his own against the rest of the group in Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto in C Major.
The concert was ably directed by Nicholas Chalmers.