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The Mozart Effect

by on 13 February 2018

Connection with Genuine Enthusiasts

Tchaikovsky and Rossini: The Mozart Effect

Opera Foundry at Ormond Road, Richmond, 10th February

Review by Vince Francis

And so to the Unitarian Church in Richmond on a bracing Saturday evening, when England beat Wales in the Six Nations (but we won’t dwell on that unduly), for an intriguing assignment taken at the last minute.

Tchaikovsky and Rossini: The Mozart Effect, presented by Opera Foundry is, effectively, a lecture with music, or, to put it another way, a concert with student notes. However, that’s not to say that it lacked entertainment value.

So, who are Opera Foundry and what is their business? Well, according to the Opera Foundry website: “Opera Foundry is a Surrey based Opera Company serving London and the South East. We are a highly regarded platform for advanced singer development and our membership (selected from across the whole of Southern England) is showcased in our performances. We present vibrant opera concerts in programmes that defy (and exceed) the expectations of the format.”

It goes on to promise: “ … the highest level of musical and vocal preparation; rich, intense, intimate singing; intelligent, passionate and historically informed programming; opera by Opera specialists

OK, so, some fairly strong claims there. How did they match up? Well, to start with, I’d have to make a confession and say that I’m not an opera lover. I don’t hate it; it’s just that I have never found a “connection” with it and certainly not the connection that genuine enthusiasts embody. Opera Foundry is clearly made up of such enthusiasts and that shone through.

The high points for me, therefore, were possibly different from those that a genuine enthusiast might identify. David Padua’s rendition of Lensky’s Aria from Yevgeny Onegin was, for me, an object lesson in how to inhabit a lyric and communicate the content. And then there is Opera Foundry’s repetiteur, the pianist Sarah Quantrell. What can we say about Sarah Quantrell? She has probably heard all of this numerous times and, to my mind, with good reason. This was a long evening and there was a wide range of musical styles to get to grips with. In my humble opinion, Sarah’s playing was the easily the match of this programme and then some. A phenomenal musician.

There were a couple of glitches. As someone who spent their working life in technology, the risks of using electronic kit in a presentation of any sort are myriad and one or two were encountered here. The surtitles somehow got out of sequence with the sung lyric at one point and there appeared to be some difficulty in powering the kit up again after the interval, which was distracting. Sonically, a church can be a bit of a gamble when it comes to producing music which requires the detail to be heard and the natural reverb in the sometimes had such a “blurring” effect.

My overall thought was, this is a valid idea, but it would benefit from something like a producer and/or an editor? For me, each half was a bit overstuffed. I found the repeated arch references to things that “would become clear later” a little tedious, particularly when they didn’t, or weren’t confirmed to be.

Was I converted? I’m afraid not. There was much to admire in this performance, the musicianship and vocal production were generally outstanding and, on an intellectual level, it was interesting to get a perspective on the connections and influences between Mozart and Tchaikovsky and Rossini, but my boat remains above the high water mark.

Vince Francis
February 2018

Photograph of Sarah Quantrell by  Robert Piwko

 

From → Opera

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