Opera Holland Park has been nurturing new talent for a good many years with its Young Artists Scheme.
To mark its tenth anniversary year, alumni, Nardus Williams, Julian Van Mellaerts and Elizabeth Karani, are singing leading roles in OHP’s The Marriage of Figaro.
On the night of the 14th June it was the turn of the Young Artists 2021. James Clutton, OHP’s director, walked on stage and announced that, Jolyon Loy, to play Figaro, was sick and that Ros Ramgobin from the main cast, would be taking over the reins.
In 2019 I had watched Loy pick up second prize in the prestigious Wagner Society singing competition at the Wigmore Hall.
My disappointment at the announcement was short-lived however as the Young Artists troupe were a delight on the night and cast a fresh eye on the roles of Mozart’s genius opera.
I was pleased to see for example that the Young Artists had not just become cardboard cutouts of the main cast and that they were prepared to distinguish themselves from their mentors. Young Artist Siân Dicker, in the role of the lonely, long-suffering Countess, presented a steelier version of Nardus Williams’s soft-voiced, heart-broken Countess. There was disdain in Dicker’s formidable soprano, and exasperation. I really enjoyed her duets with Charlotte Bowden singing Susannah as their voices melded well. Bowden too was different from Elizabeth Karani’s no-nonsense Susannah in the main cast. More tentative (I liked both interpretations). Karani being the more experienced singer, exuded confidence but equally displayed great lyricism in the ‘moon’ aria as did Bowden.
With his inability to control his overbrimming emotions and to understand himself, Cherubino is probably one of Mozart’s most engaging characters. The confusion Cherubino feels so acutely, provides much of the comedy. Charlotte Badham lit up the stage with her mischievous Cherubino. My twenty-three-old son, who has little experience of opera, was bewitched by Badham’s bright, ripe mezzo (as was the audience). Jacob Phillips as the YA Count also impressed. The steadfastness in Philips’s beautiful rich baritone is still running through me today at my time of writing.
With the other supporting characters, Hannah Bennett’s voice and comedic skills stood out in her Marcellina role. But this was a magnificent ensemble piece and to perform a three-hour Mozart opera to such a high standard is an enormous achievement.
The Young Artists do a matinee on 26th June and to schools on 16th and 22nd June.
Here’s betting on Cherubino being a hit with the adolescent crowd!
The Marriage of Figaro main cast performances run until 28th June. Mostly sold out but worth ringing up box office 0300 999 1000 for returns or side tickets. Young Artists 26th June at 2pm.