Review: Love and Heartbreak @ The Anson Rooms

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By Milan Perera, Second Year English and Community Engagement

Music writer Milan Perera reviews Bristol Symphonia Philharmonic Orchestra and Bristol University Operatic Society's latest effort.

No other motif in the history of art and literature has engendered as much creative outpouring as the ‘matters of heart’. It is the fertile loam from which colossi like Byron and Browning sprang up. Songwriters from John Dowland to John Lennon have been striving to write the piquant love song. The world of opera is no exception; from Monteverdi to Mozart, from Rossini to Respighi and from Wagner to Walton, the list goes on.

Despite the bookend of the autumn term being punctuated with deadlines and assignments, Bristol Symphonia Philharmonic Orchestra and Bristol University Operatic Society joined forces to present an enthralling evening dedicated to the theme of ‘Love and Heartbreak’.

The evening got off to a rollicking start with a spirited rendition of ‘Carmen Suite: No.2’ by George Bizet. This evergreen, foot-tapping crowd pleaser is not confined to classical music circles but is widely used and sampled in popular culture from Paco Rabanne adverts to prime-time TV.This was followed by a string ofshowstoppers fromthe operatic repertoire.

The conductor of Bristol University Madrigal Ensemble, Harrison Robb, switched the conductor’s baton for his velvety baritone vocals. Robb delivered a jovial and effortless interpretation of ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, widely known as Papageno’s aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute. The highly distressed Papageno yearns for someone to love and adore: ‘Ah, can't I find one, then, amongst all the lovely girls, who would like me? Let just one help me out of my misery’.

Charlotte Du-Cann stepped up to the challenge of delivering an ebullient rendition of Charles Gounoud’s ‘Je veux vivre’ from his five-act opera, ‘Roméo et Juliette’. This enthralling aria is a treat for audiences, but is a technically challenging piece as it requires a firm grasp of coloratura singing. Du-Cann navigated the technical pitfalls with panache and channelled the naivete and unbridled joy of Juliette as she revels in her youthfulness.

The Puccini aria ‘O mio bambino caro’ from his one-act opera ‘Gianni Schichi’ has been a favourite of classical music lovers since its first performance some hundred years ago. Imogen Lock executed the sonorous flourish to a tee and conveyed the tender plea of Lauretta who begs her father Gianni Schicchi to help her marry the love of her life, Rinuccio.

Credit: Milan Perera

Una furtiva lagrima’ from Donizetti’s ‘L'elisir D'amore’has been the preserve of tenor soloists from Enrico Caruso to Lawrence Brownlee. Oscar Andrusier’s rendition of Donizetti’s evergreen showpiece was repleting with warmth and technical brilliance as the protagonist is pining away for his love interest who is above his social status.

The penultimate piece for the evening was an orchestral arrangement of the ubiquitous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ by operatic titan Richard Wagner. This ambitious transcription conveyed the menacing energy associated with this piece, played at an optimum tempo without losing its vigour.

The final piece for the evening was a trio from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’, an opus on love, lust, decadence, and vengeance. Cephren Parker, Aaron Prewer-Jenkinson and James Ward mounted a flawless rendition with aplomb.

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Heidi Hooper conducted proceedings for the evening with verve and vitality as she led the highly polished ensemble of Bristol Symphonia Philharmonic Orchestra.

After being treated with a program of operatic gems on love and loss, the full capacity audience stood to their feet as the soloists and the orchestra took their final bow.

Featured image: Milan Perera


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