(4 / 5)
Opera Rara are on the prowl for the lesser heard, lesser staged in the operatic world. They have no council funding and have excelled with rarely seen delights. This saloon concert at the Lansdowne Club, a charming membership venue over looking Berkeley Square proved a thrill. I was taking the charm of the older gentlemen’s club, I was warmly welcomed and they were happy to allow me to sit and have a drink before. It was all rather fetching, it was seeing the club’s cat that really did it for me, Harry one of two who live there.
This was a fine opportunity to hear emerging bass singer William Thomas and on piano Florent Mourier. The chance to hear encounter lesser heard Verdi and Donizetti songs was a treat and in such a fine space. We heard many songs on the night, too many to mention. Thomas who is such a talented bass, felt quite special sitting and listening to him. The bass does not always get a lot of love and a fine, young singer like this could break down many barriers. Even in the Italian or the French repertoire (such was the influence of Parisain opera and all things francophile) from the two composers.
Starting with Donizetti’s Troppo é vezzoza la ninfa bella, we couldn’t have had a better start. Thomas plays the odd little characters well in these songs, humour aside great timing also important. My Italian plus one said the language was clear, though not all the time as is the way with words used in opera. Hearing Verdi, In solitaria stanza had a sweet Bellini reference, more influence from the past. Deh, pietoso, oh addolorata had the words of Gothic God Goethe. Mourier had a few rehearsals with Thomas prior, you would think they have played together for years. His piano skills meshed marvellously for these songs, he seems to get these hardly hear song like few do. Together, magic was made between Thomas and Mourier, both at the top of their game. An encore would preview his role in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra coming up in Manchester, wetting mouths.
Seriousness met fun, romance and tension, in the club saloon setting you couldn’t ask for much more.
Opera Rara perform the original Verdi Simon Boccanegra from 1857 at Manchester Bridgewater Hall 18 April 2024.