Opera for lunch: the ROH Young Artists in concert
Day one of Meet the Young Artists Week with the Royal Opera House was a delightful midday concert of arias and ensembles, showing off the singers and pianists of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.
One of the great things about a one-stop, get-to-know-you afternoon with the young artists of a major opera house is that it reminds us how many stellar singers there are, all over the globe. The singers were from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa, and even they were a small - and excellent - slice of the world's rising opera talent.
The generous acoustic of St. Clement Danes gave the impression that this year's young artists are all owners of great big voices, and it made us curious to hear them in more context, on the ROH stage throughout the season. The concert was a mix of what these singers are doing today, and what they may do in a few years. Some selections were quite ambitious, like the big "Antonia trio" from Les contes d'Hoffmann, or the final duet from Thaïs, and it seemed a bit of a shame to see nothing in English, and nothing from the 20th century.
Safe as the programme may have been, the singers and pianists impressed; some of our highlights were the performances by tenor Thomas Atkins, sopranos Jennifer Davis and Vlada Borovko, and tenor David Junghoon Kim. The quality of singing was high across the board, and yet it's always a fascinating exercise to notice recurring differences between artists who are so-called "young," and those with more experience. Text is a big one, and so is clarity of rhythm.
At the piano for most of the afternoon was David Gowland, Artistic Director of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, who seemed to drive the singers through fluctuating tempos that fell on the side of too fast. The pace made it difficult for the singers to enjoy language, and there seemed to be little room for them to settle into a world of sound with their arias.
The two répétiteurs of the JPYAP added more than their two cents to the concert, Nick Fletcher with a piano transcription of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde, and James Hendry with Liszt's Paraphrase de concert - Rigoletto (insufferable as we may find Liszt, Hendry's performance was to-shelf). It seemed odd that the YA pianists didn't play for the singers.