New Zealand School of Music – Voice students, accompanied by Mark Dorrell
Emily Simcox, Angelique Macdonald, Simon Harnden, Isabella Moore, Thomas Barker, Amelia Ryman, Thomas O’Brien
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 6 April, 12.15pm
Second and third year voice students at the New Zealand School of Music, tutored by Richard Greager, Margaret Medlyn, Jenny Wollerman and Emily Mair, gave a varied and excellent demonstration of both their own talents and the quality of their teaching.
The recital was interestingly planned, starting with four arias from Mozart operas. The first two were from The Marriage of Figaro: Emily Simcox opened with ‘Voi che sapete’, an attractive, guileless performance, her voice displaying quite a ring, and a polished legato style; another soubrette role from Figaro – Barbarina’s ‘L’ho perduta, me meschina’, quite short but quite charming.
Bass Simon Harnden sang Sarastro’s aria, ‘O Isis und Osiris’. He has a naturally attractive low voice though at this stage his voice seems invested with little colour and his German pronunciation was iffy.
Then Isabella Moore finished the Mozart group with Fiordiligi’s ‘Come scoglio’ from Così fan tutte; she too will learn how to colour her singing more interestingly, but her strong voice projected well, her breath control was good and she handled the large intervals skillfully.
Then came two arias that show how interest in exploring neglected areas of the opera repertoire has grown in recent years; arias from Ambroise Thomas’s best-known operas, Hamlet and Mignon, were chosen by the next two singers. Thomas Barker, baritone, sang Hamlet’s (non-Shakespearean) apostrophe to wine, ‘O vin, dissipe la tristesse’, offering appropriate gestures, and singing with an attractive swagger. From Mignon, Emily Simcox sang the gavotte (which used to be found in most piano albums) that Thomas wrote when a contralto sang Frédéric as a trouser role: ‘Me voici dans son boudoir’. Speaking of which, Mark Dorrell’s piano accompaniments, in this, and throughout, were admirable in their lively and dramatic support.
The programme then passed to the next generation of French opera composers – to Massenet. Amelia Ryman, as Manon, sang quite movingly the sentimental farewell to the little table where she and Des Grieux have lived; we are beguiled by her charming fickleness.
A less familiar opera is Hérodiade – the story of Salome, though her aria ‘Il est doux, il est bon’ is familiar. It depicts Salome very differently from the Oscar Wilde-Strauss version of 25 years later: something approaching love between John the Baptist and Salome who tries to intercede and even seeks to be killed alongside John. Isabella Moore used her strong, sometimes rather too big, voice to great effect.
Thomas O’Brien’s voice is soft and he sang Fauré’s ‘Après un rêve’ with nicely controlled dynamics and expressive gestures.
There followed two German pieces: Angelique Macdonald returned to sing what is known as Marietta’s Lied from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, with a voice of considerable delicacy and tonal purity. And Thomas Barker capped his fine performance of the Hamlet aria with the song to the Evening Star from Tannhäuser ; his tone is even, he knows how to control it without pushing to gain louder of higher notes. One of Elgar’s Sea Pictures was chosen by Emily Simcox – ‘In Haven’ – a moment of calm in the otherwise restless cycle; she captured it well with phrasing that was flowing and legato.
Three English songs, by Thomas Quilter, ended the programme. Amelia Ryman who had sung the Manon aria with such clarity, brought that care with diction to ‘Come away Death’ from Twelfth Night; Thomas O’Brien sang ‘Go, lovely Rose’ and then Shelley’s ‘Love’s Philosophy’; the first, restrained, delicate if not very strong, the second evincing the same sweetness of tone, and more liveliness.
The recital was not interrupted by singers’ commentaries on their pieces (each singer had written short notes in the programme) or pauses between each performance, and so audience interest was maintained very well; it was one of the most enjoyable student voice recitals I’ve heard in a long time.