Devotion and Desire – National Opera Studio
Once more the National Opera Studio comes up trumps in its joint production with the Welsh National Opera, of ‘Devotion and Desire’. This programme was directed by Emma Jenkins, whose career started as a staff director at the English National Opera, but has also more recently included work with the WNO, where she has directed the NOS residency for the last three years.
In a programme with no lights, sets or costumes to hide behind, the Young Artists not only had to showcase their singing prowess, but also their ability to evoke character. In saying this, Emma Jenkins put together an extremely interesting programme that enabled the Young Artists to show off their real expertise in their journey toward an operatic career.
The NOS, in saying goodbye to its outstanding Chairman for many years, Sir Vernon Ellis, is lucky to bring in Nick Allan as its new Chair. Nick has more recently been Vice Chairman at ENO and has had a very successful business career.
With the Chief Executive, Emily Gottlieb, introducing the programme, the fireworks started early. The Romanian soprano, Ana-Maria Bacanu teamed up with the dramatic Italian tenor, Roberto Barbaro, in Donizetti’s Lucia de Lammermoor’s powerful Act 1 duet, which was expansively performed by both singers. It was followed by the clear countertenor voice of JungKwon Jang singing Handel’s Xerxes, who also teamed up with a well matched soprano, Charlie Drummond, in Monteverdi’s Poppea. Both sang really well, but it was the feminine beauty of Jung’s voice that really shone through in this performance.
Two tenors, Ben Smith and Adam Temple-Smith, were well matched as Pang and Pong in Puccini’s Turandot, with Jake Muffett taking the deep baritone role. There was plenty of Mozart with the pure mezzo of Margo Arsane taking on the role of Cherubino, joined by the Susanna of Ana-Maria Bacanu, the Contessa of Frances du Plessis and the dastardly Conte of Nicholas Mogg, who came back later in the programme as Figaro – definitely one in the making – and Ben Smith as Almaviva. Charlie Drummond was also back with the Maltese mezzo soprano Marvic Monreal and it wasn’t until later in the programme that Frances du Plessis and Jake Muffett sang the duet from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Beth Moxon led the ensemble in Shostakovich’s Cheryomushki.
All the voices were supported by the repetiteurs, Emily Hooker, William Green, Benedict Kearns and Michael Papadopoulos. Such a wonderful evening to see these outstanding young artists growing with every performance.