Review of ‘A Night at the Opera’

Review of:

‘A Night at the Opera’

with Ashtead Choral Society at
Epsom Playhouse on Saturday, 24 March 2018.

Review by Sue S. Meyer

Congratulations to conductor James Henshaw, Chorus Master of ENO, for a fine and varied selection of pieces and masterly marshalling of his forces throughout this hugely entertaining concert before a full house!

The evening opened with the ever popular Overture to ‘The Barber of Seville’ by the youthful Outcry Ensemble, whose zestful professionalism and precision underpinned the whole event.  Bravo!

There was so much to enjoy here!  The trio of soloists were all outstanding with numbers in English, Russian, Italian, French and German; all performed with flawless diction and acting their wide-ranging roles with consummate skill and panache.

Soprano Charlotte Howes demonstrated a tremendous vocal range and control with portrayal of the full gamut of female wiles in a broad spectrum of roles!  Her Rosina’s aria from ‘The Barber of Seville’ and her Carmen were especially compelling.

Tenor Alberto Sousa excelled in Lensky’s aria from ‘Eugene Onegin’ and performed a highly flirtatious rendering of the great showstopper ‘La donna è mobile’.  The duet with baritone Mark Nathan from ‘La Bohème’ demonstrated great technique allied with a sensitivity to each other’s voices which gave the impression they had done this regularly – not the case!

Mark’s introductions were particularly witty but it was his vocal and linguistic skills which wowed the audience; a very fine Onegin aria, an engrossing Papageno’s suicide aria from ‘The Magic Flute’, and a swaggering Toreador’s Song from ‘Carmen’ with the choir!

All of them contributed magnificently to choruses sung by the choir, who were no less engaging as they sang in all the above languages apart from Russian with impressive diction.

They sang with confidence, and aplomb in the waltz scene from ‘Onegin’, the Bridal Chorus from ‘Lohengrin’, ‘Habanera’ from ‘Carmen’ and the splendid Triumphal March from ‘Aida’ with a sonorous, well blended sound.  They captured the tragic grief of the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves (‘Nabucco’) and even more so the emotional heart of the Chorus of Scottish Refugees (‘Macbeth’) with an impressive attention to dynamics.

They rose well to the enormous challenges of ‘Brindisi’ with its rapid Italian in the closing section and the strange vocabulary and rhythmic variety of ‘Rataplan’ (‘The Force of Destiny’).  Special mention must be made of a very fine Priest’s Chorus (‘The Magic Flute’) from the tenors and basses in a famously difficult piece!

Overall then, an ambitious programme delivered in wonderful sound with many a highlight!  It would have improved if more members of the choir had raised their heads from their books to portray the full emotional impact of the words they were singing!  But this is nit-picking!