01:42AM, Friday 30 September 2011
London Festival Opera returned to the Theatre Royal Windsor to enchant us with another afternoon of ‘opera magic’, writes Louise Herington.
It was specifically aimed at introducing children to the world of opera.
The stage was set as though looking at a major international opera house with it grand boxes, scenic backdrop and an elegant grand piano taking pride of place centre stage.
Philip Blake-Jones, artistic director of the London Festival Opera, took charge for the afternoon and introduced nearly all the singers by name and their characters for the main excepts for Mozart’s Magic Flute.
There were two sopranos, one tenor and Philip as the baritone. He certainly got the audience playing their part when practicing the clapping and cheering of 'bravo' as you would often find in an Italian opera house.
On to the music. Having kicked of proceedings with a short extract of ‘The Drinking Song’ from Verdi’s La Traviata, they launched into The Magic Flute with Nicolas Ransley singing Tamino’s first act aria which was followed by Helen Massey performing one of The Queen of the Nights arias with a very clear but brief top F at the end.
Philip got out his pipes for Papageno’s main aria followed by two duets between Papageno & Pamina, and Papageno and Papagena. These were all expertly sung in English and clearly have been in the singers repertoire for some time.
After the Magic Flute section, there was a small selection of arias by other composers, mainly Strauss’ ‘Laughing Song’ from Die Fledermaus, Rossini’s ‘Cat Duet’ turned into a quartet and the finale number being a Gilbet and Sullivan favourite – the ‘Policemans Song’ from the Pirates of Penzance.
For the cat duet, four children were selected to go on stage and a ‘dogs’ role was added to the aria and in the Gilbert and Sullivan, nine children were on stage pretending to be policemen.
This finale number acted as an audience sing-a-long which people joined in whole heartedly. The encore was the full version of The Drinking Song sung in Italian.
The only flaw in the afternoon for me was that when the two sopranos were singing the Laughing Song, they kept going outside the lighting area, and then coming into the audience where they were not lit at all. Just a little niggle.
Overall, a good entertaining hour of opera, and the children in the audience enjoyed it and reacted on cue.
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