Review WNO Summer Opera Classic Concert, Theatr Hafren, Newtown. By Barbara Michaels

Conductor: Harry Ogg

Soloists: Joyce El-Khoury and Jason Howard

Soloists: Joyce El-Khoury and Jason Howard

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What a treat for opera lovers in mid-Wales to have WNO favourites Joyce El-Khoury and Welsh baritone Jason Howard performing here in their midst, in the Summer Opera Classics concert at the Theatr Hafren in Newtown. 

Under the baton of young conductor Harry Ogg, who took up his position as WNO Associate conductor earlier this summer, the concert featured both popular classical opera favourites such as La ci darem la mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, plus songs from musical theatre – namely South Pacific – including the universally popular Some Enchanted Evening. The latter showcased Howard’s role in the touring production of the show, providing an easy entrée for anyone dipping their toes into the world of opera for the first time; a realisation, perhaps, that the genres not infrequently have a musical reference to one another.

With the two soloists on stage either separately or together for most of the programme, interspersed with a sprinkling of orchestral items which included the delightful waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, this was a concert with a well-balanced choice of music to delight on a summer evening. Bringing her own special magic to the occasion, Joyce El-Khoury as ever, held her audience enthralled.  Her skill as an outstanding soprano is indisputable, plus the fact that El-Khoury manages to make reaching even the highest notes seem effortless.  After a majestic performance by the orchestra of the WNO which opened the concert, El Khoury’s singing of D’amor sulll’all rosee from Verdi’s Il Trovatore could best be described as liquid gold, followed by Howard’s simpatico rendering of the lyrical intermezzo from Masagri’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

A perfect pairing, this, of El -Khoury and Howard. The chemistry between these two accomplished artistes was evident in their duets, in the highly charged and musically challenging Pari, siamo soli from Verdi’s Rigoletto and climaxing in the waltz duet which forms the finale from Franz Lehar’s Merry Widow – perhaps not surprisingly as the singers are partners in real life!

It is not easy to create the atmosphere of grand opera in a concert hall or theatre with no scenery and full marks to Ogg , a slight but autoreactive figure on the rostrum, and the orchestra of the WNO for achieving this despite having journeyed for some hundred miles for this, the final performance of their Summer Opera Classics tour.

Performance on Friday July 5 at Theatr Hafren, Newtown.

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