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Kieran Rayner and Gamal Khamis

by on 26 November 2020

Passion with Panache

Kieran Rayner and Gamal Khamis 

Opera Live At Home, On-line from 24th November

Review by Kate Cleeland

Another superlative evening of opera arias was presented by Helen Astrid this week, the second of her Opera Live at Home series, a marvellous idea and well-suited to these musically deprived times, providing the audience with a special opportunity to hear some outstanding emerging artists in the UK.

The programme notes gave some indication that the duo of New Zealand born baritone Kieran Rayner and his accompanist Gamal Khamis, was going to be a veritable feast of music and so it proved.

To begin Kieran literally leapt onto our screens with the Largo from Rossini’sIl Barbieri di Siviglia, a thrilling opening packed with joie de vivre.  Here was a barber who was anything but a servant.  Kieran was thoroughly at home in the characterful role, full of lively bonhomie and engaging wit whilst delivering plenty of his very own wisdom.

A rather different pace and quality followed with the Count’s recitative and aria Tutto e disposto from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.  Women, announces Figaro, are roses with thorns – a thorny subject indeed and listeners were treated to a very plausible account of the conundrum.  By way of contrast, Harlekin’s seriously sombre Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen from Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos was sung with fervent passion.

Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Poulenc 2017

Highlights were a masterly Tu sei il cor di questo core from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, featuring a slightly threatening atmosphere with an expressive tour de force, while in Onegin’s aria If I Were Made For The Family Life from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin he gave full rein to a rich and sonorous sound that superbly embraced the complexity of the Russian language as well as the passions of the human condition.  Bizet’s famous Toreador Song from Carmen, a firm opera favourite (just as Tchaikovsky had predicted on first hearing the opera in 1820), was performed effortlessly.

Roslton Recital Hall

By way of encore, Gershwin’s less well-known Just Another Rhumba, was a showstopper: a parody of the rumba craze in 1930’s America and never actually included in the final production of the 1937 musical A Damsel in Distress.  Kieran’s extravagant silver and black toreador tunic (henceforth known as a ‘Strictly jacket’) demonstrated his humour and formidable dancing skills.  An exciting evening’s entertainment with a brilliant finish.

As before, Helen Astrid introduced each aria with brief but welcome historical scenarios.  The rather informal nature of these concerts also gives the artists a chance to chat with the audience adding another dimension to live viewing.

Altogether we were treated to a diverse programme performed with panache, demonstrating a wide range of mood and ability by this energetic and compelling young singer who obviously enjoyed every minute of his performance, and all finely supported by Gamal Khamis.

 Kate Cleeland, November 2020

Photography by Christopher Christodoulou, Ben Ealovega and Meghan Krauss

Opera Live at Home will feature soprano Christine Buras with Thomas Ang on 18th December 2020 and Kathleen Ferrier finalist Milly Forrest in 2021.

From → On-Line, Opera, Recital

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