Review ENO New Harewood Artists Recital, St Martin-In-The-Fields by James Ellis

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

My time in London is wrapping up. A day spent with English National Opera would herald a fine last day in the capital and I couldn’t have been happier. Though my health has comprised my enjoyment somewhat, I ventured on the New Harewood Artists recital at St Martin’s-in-the-Field.

I found joy in hearing more of Clara Schumann and her friend Brahms, in a mostly Germanic programme from bass William Thomas. With smouldering good looks and a surprising, volcanic voice, William has much promise, this set from him proving how perfect he would be for Don Giovanni and possibly some Wagner baddies, the Russian repertoire a must. There was a sensuality with these German lieder, a romance often awash in the joy of nature, true love and broken hearts. This was an opening I found very impressive.

A coughing fit would prevent me from hearing all of soprano Alexandra Oomens. I did get to savour Night by composer of colour Florence B. Price and sadly with eyes streaming and throat raging, I had to leave to acquire water. I stood at the back for the rest of the concert. What I did hear of Alexandra was an exquisite voice that I was upset I missed most of. Her recent outing in ENO’s HMS Pinafore proves her quick wit and broad repertoire outings. I can only apologise for my temperamental throat.

Last but not least, New Zealand born Sāmoan baritone Benson Wilson grappled with war and it’s aftermath. You can’t think of George Butterworth without thinking of A Shropshire Lad, a staple of WW1 memorials. These tender and often considerate songs were as English as cricket, builder’s tea and bulldogs. A touching orb seemed to hover over each song, the lingering sense of loss and regret is never far away. Butterworth was one of over the million men who lost their life at The Somme. Benson has meaty vocals, his looming stature and rugged nature also evident. The end with Robert Wiremu’s Ake Ake Kia Kaha E (Victory and Glory), the feel of an Italian art song, leading to a soaring haka, which rang out into the church. Marvellous.

The conclude all three singers offered a trio from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Witty and delightful, this fragments again, proved the power of these three singers, talent and more talent. It’s only up from here!

ENO in the Fields counties with concerts till 30 April 2022.

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