Review: Music for a Venetian Orphanage

As their final performance in Harrogate English Touring Opera teamed up with Vocalis ,the Harrogate based Chamber Choir, to give an all Vivaldi programme in the generous acoustic of St Wilfrid’s Church. Vocalis have worked with ETO since 2011 and it seems to be a partnership that is working well.

The programme was based around music composed during Vivaldi’s time  at the Ospedale della Pieta  - a home for abandoned children.

The choral opening to the Magnificat was strong and confident and set the scene for the rest of the concert. This setting of the Magnificat gives plenty of opportunity for solo voices, in this case Counter tenor and Soprano. It is a long time since we have heard not one but three counter tenors in a choral concert! Jake Arditt, Russell Harcourt, and Michal Czerniawski provided the countertenor solos in the Magnificat and the soprano was Catrina Kirkman.  Throughout the programme Catrina sang with a splendid clarity of tone and with a good sense of style.

For the counter tenors the Magnificat served almost as an introduction to the Stabat Mater which followed.  Each of them sang three of the nine movements  and we were to be delighted to hear the differences in the tonal quality and timbre of each of these voices as well as their individual interpretation of their particular movements. This setting of the Stabat Mater, which is without chorus, served to remind us that originally this would have been sung by the girls of the orphanage. It was a joy to hear it.

The final work in the programme was the Introduction and Gloria RV639 and RV588. Many  will be very familiar with Vivaldi Gloria RV 589 but not necessarily with this setting although there were moments when some of the material was very similar e.g. Cum Sancto Spiritu. The Introduction was sung by Jake Arditti with considerable fluency and clarity particularly on the long runs where his breath control was enviable.

In the Gloria Vocalis sang each of their movements with a pleasing tone although sometimes some of the entries needed just a little more conviction and confidence. The singing was always rhythmic and much of the articulation was clear. Vocalis are an attentive choir and they responded well to the clear and authoritative direction of the conductor  -Jonathan Peter Kenny. Each of the soloists sang with sensitivity and understanding of the text and it was good to hear the duet Laudamus te sung with such joy by Catrina Kirkam and Russell Harcourt.

The Old Street Band provide the chamber orchestra and the balance between them and the singers was always well in place and their playing was very stylish.

This was a delightful concert and I am sure the near capacity audience could not think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 Marilynne Davies

Reproduced courtesy of the Harrogate Advertiser

(c) Akrill Media Group 2012