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Semele was sung by Rosemary Joshua and though I have seen her in the role before, it was an immeasurable advantage to see her in a theatre as small as Grange Park's rather than the London Coliseum. This meant that one could appreciate all the more her fine artistry. Joshua is well able to cope with the virtuosic vocal line. But more than that, she shapes it beautifully and uses it for expressive and dramatic purposes. Rarely have I heard Semele sung so beautifully and to such good dramatic effect.
The joint role of Semele's sister Ino and the goddess Juno was sung by Hilary Summers. Summers used a dramatic change of outfit to highlight the difference between her appearances as Ino and as Juno; as Ino her outfit was patterned and well covered, as Juno she wore a dramatic black off the shoulder number with a gold train. Summers is a very dramatic singer and even in a concert performance such as this she gave a vivid reading, using both the music and her dramatic sense to differentiate between the two characters. Summers has an admirably firm voice with a good sense of line and a nice way with Handel's passagework. Like Joshua, she used the melodic line for expressive effect. The two blended beautifully in their duet.
In his grey lounge suit tenor Edward Lyon unfortunately looked rather more like a hotel manager than the king of the gods. Lyon had all the notes for Jupiter's role and in the more lyric passages, when his voice relaxed, he showed his mettle. But unfortunately for much of the time his voice had a rather wound-up, nervous quality which was unsuited to the role. He was technically adept and sang the more bravura passages creditably, but was rather put into the shade by Summers and Joshua.
Brindley Sherratt sang the double role of Cadmus, Semele's father, and Somnus the God of sleep. Cadmus is a bit of a dull stick, his role is necessary rather than exciting and Sherratt sang him creditably with a nice sense of gravitas. But it was as Somnus that Sherratt was allowed to bring out his comic side. In both roles he was admirably firm of voice and had a neat way with the passage-work.
Copyright © 9 July 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK