For many, the end of exams was welcomed this weekend by the summer sun as the final few students were eventually freed from the tedious revision slog and library detainment.
The dedicated singers of OpSoc (The University’s Opera Society) however, had to somewhat delay their post-exam celebrations. Afternoon barbeques and Pimms were replaced with all-day rehearsals and ever-faithful lemsip, as the run up to the annual opera production, which signified their most ambitious production so far, culminated in two outstanding performances of the annual opera this weekend.
Instantly engaging from the opening scene, Suzanna and Figaro, played by final year music students Becky Briggs and Dave Ireland, stunned the audience by their charismatic stage presence and effortless interplay. If it hadn’t been for the lacklustre scenery – almost unavoidable on a student budget – the assured vocal technique and instinctive musicianship demonstrated by the two leads revealed no hint of amateurism.
Remarkably, the vibrant energy and high standard established in the opening scene was continued throughout the entirety of the opera and René Bloice-Sanders and Amy Moore in their respective roles as the Count and Countess similarly met the musical and theatrical demands of their roles. The voices of four principles complimented each other beautifully, and the flirtatious Suzanna provided an effectual contrast to the furious Count and comical Figaro, amid the raging turmoil of the plot itself. The pervasive energy of the septet concluding the second act brought the first half to a dramatic climax whilst revealing the depth of talent within the recently formed society.
While the audience were treated to illustrious arias, sung sensitively with the required lyrical beauty, the extensive and demanding recitative passages were equally communicative, assisted by the manageable and accessible English rendition. Jeremy Franklin’s Don Basilio and Ed Denham’s Antonio brought Da Ponte’s comical libretto to life, frequently spurring the audience into bursts of laughter, delivering punch lines with impeccable timing and convincing characterisation.
Unfortunately, the quality of singing and acting was not quite matched by the piano reduction. Although clearly very talented musicians (exemplified by the improvisatory piano interlude between the third and fourth act), the alternation between piano and harpsichord, which was implemented to provide contrast between aria and recitative, did not do enough justice to the principles as the powerful voices overwhelmed the balance on a few occasions.
This, of course, did not prevent the fervent applause and cheers that erupted after the rousing finale, boldly sung by all eleven of the assured principle roles. Under the direction of OpSoc’s devoted president, Rebecca Knights, the entire cast pulled together culminating in a lively and inspiring performance.
…Rebecca has been listening to: Agnes Obel – ‘Riverside’…