Once in a while it’s fun to go to something almost entirely undemanding (for the audience at least!). So, yesterday afternoon I attended a concert of classical “lollipops” given by the TSO under the baton of young Portugese conductor Joana Carneiro. The chief attraction for me was that recent Ensemble Studio graduates Simone Osborne and Wallis Giunta were also performing. Things got going with the overture from Il Nozze di Figaro. It was a brisk and stylish performance with Ms. Carneiros displaying a very physical conducting style.
The Canzonetta sull’aria from the same piece was a natural follow up. Here it was interesting to hear Wallis taking on a soprano role as the Contessa and brightening her tone up for it quite nicely. Simone was an excellent foil as Susanna (and how much I want to hear her sing that role on stage). This was followed by two more duets. We got lilting version of the Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffman notable for a very beautiful intro and Simone’s ability to sing through the relatively heavy orchestra. The final duet was the Flower Duet from Lakmé,which was lovely and gave Wallis a chance to show off her mezzo colours properly. The first half finished up with brisk but sensitive rendition of the first movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.
The second half of the program kicked off with Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Ludmila. This was a full throttle, no holds barred reading and was rather fun. It was followed by the highlight of the show for me. Simone came back to sing the Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos. This is the one with the well known vocalise Cantilena as well as the less well known second half which is a setting of a text by Manoel Bandeira. It’s also curiously scored for eight cellos and soprano (there’s a joke in there somewhere). Anyway, it was gorgeous and gave Simone a wonderful opportunity to just saturate the hall in beautiful tone colours. The prolonged applause showed that my reaction was widely shared. Things finished up with Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet. This too was given a full blooded Romantic treatment; rather too much for my taste but I think that’s more a comment on Tchaikovsky than the orchestra or conductor.
So, a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a (almost) spring Sunday.