In review: the JPYA summer performance A production image from the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists summer performance. Photo: Clive Barda/ROH.

In review: the JPYA summer performance

John Beckett

Sunday night was a rare peep into the journey of becoming a professional singer: the singers from the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist Programme took to the mainstage of Covent Garden to present a set of opera scenes from Mozart to Mascagni.

Jennifer Davis wowed us in a scene-stealing performance of Arabella, and then again as Donna Elvira. She and David Shipley, as Leporello, were the most interesting to watch on stage. Shipley’s presence fit easily into his character, we loved the way his voiced exhibited the text so well.

Jennifer Davis and Gyula Nagy. Photo by Clive Barda/ROH.

The colours in the voice of Vlada Borovko were interesting to hear. Gyula Nagy’s Don Giovanni was played as a petulant man-boy, all the while still manipulating his characters with a sleazy tone and incessant hair-flipping. Simon Shibambu gave such a powerful Commendatore that we were disappointed that he didn’t get to sing more than he did.

The audience’s favourite seemed to be a duet between Francesca Chiejina and Thomas Atkins from L’amico Fritz - their two strong voices were very well matched to each other and each full of character and vibrancy. The pair had some of the best chemistry on stage, everyone grinning at Chiejina’s sultry consumption of a cherry.

Simon Shibambu and Gyula Nagy. Photo by Clive Barda/ROH.

David Junghoon Kim had the very difficult job of opening the program as he sang an aria from I due Foscari, the giant black depth of the stage appearing intimidating. His voice was impressively resonant. Angela Simkin showed how flexible her voice moves in Le Comte Ory, and made us laugh at her body language, turning Isolier into a sloppy teenager.

(l-r): David Junghoon Kim, Francesca Chiejina, and Angela Simkin. Photo: Clive Barda/ROH.

The evening was unified by an awkward minimalist staging, where at times many of the singers looked as though they were stuck in place on an empty stage. A sparse number of props and a couple pieces of furniture did not do much to help the singers, especially during stretches of music with no singing.

Francesca Chiejina. Photo: Clive Barda/ROH.

What was even rarer was the opportunity to hear from two conductors on the Jette Parker Programme, both of whom would not have been wrong to bring the volume down on the orchestra. Matthew Scott Rogers produced some beautiful lines from Massenet’s Cendrillon, and James Hendry looked like he was having the time of his life filling the world-renowned orchestra of the Royal Opera House with energy and passion. Unfortunately these great qualities were diminished by issues of balance with the singers.

A production image from the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists summer performance. Photo: Clive Barda/ROH.

All in all, we consider ourselves lucky to have gotten the chance to see these young artists in the home-stretch of their development. How lucky for us to have this opportunity, and how lucky for opera to have a crop of fantastic singers almost ripe for the picking.

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