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Concert performances of opera can sometimes seem a little score bound; a fact that one tolerates for the sheer joy of hearing the work performed. But with Saturday's cast there was no danger of that. Nelly Miricioiu is a wonderfully dramatic and vivid performer; Clive Bayley barely seemed to need his score and gave a fully rounded dramatic performance as the barbarian leader. Wynne Evans was quite a find as the tenor hero. Born in Carmarthen, he has a vocal quality which matches his Italianate looks. He sang Foresto's part with care and passion, and reacted well to his co-singers. He is undoubtedly a singer to watch.

Jonathan Summers made a fine Ezio, singing with a fine sense of line. In fact, all the singers responded well to the line of Verdi's music, something that can often be neglected in the struggle to present the drama in the music.

Paul O'Neill gave strong support in the role of Uldino, Attila's slave; a part which, unfortunately, gives the singer few opportunities to shine. Mark Beesley was impressive in the small role of Leone.

The chorus has an important role to play in the opera and the chorus of Chelsea Opera Group sang with passion and enthusiasm even if they were occasionally less then ideally accurate.

Conductor Andrew Greenwood drew responsive playing from the orchestra. Early Verdi is not always the most interesting music to play from an orchestral player's point of view, but you would not have known it from the committed and passionate playing of the orchestra. It was a pleasure to see (and hear) the bass line in the brass being played on a cimbasso rather than a tuba.

This was a performance which brought style and sophistication to a work which can seem rather tub-thumbing, though the performers did not neglect the more rousing aspects of the work and the Act finales were thrilling. Once again Chelsea Opera Group has provided fine illumination of a neglected corner of the repertoire; I'm already looking forward to I Puritani on 10 June.

Copyright © 15 March 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK




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