United Kingdom International Opera Stars Series 2013: – Bryn Terfel: Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Gwawr Edwards (soprano), Caryl Hughes (mezzo-soprano), Manchester Concert Orchestra/Gareth Jones (conductor), Bridgwater Hall, Manchester, 16.6.2013 (MC)
Programme at end of review
There are few singers that attract audiences of the size that Bryn Terfel can. This Bridgwater Hall gala concert, part of the International Opera Stars Series 2013, drew a large audience not quite full but not far off and at premium seat prices too.
This Opera Stars concert was not just about Terfel’s undoubted vocal prowess it also displayed his rare ability to engage the audience with his warm personality. Right from his opening appearance on the stage as the licentious nobleman in Mozart’s ‘Catalogue’ aria from Don Giovanni he involved the audience by showing off his mobile phone contact list of 640 lovers. Prior to each of the nine arias and songs that Terfel sang he told a number of personal anecdotes, which usually ended with humour, in an appealing and light hearted manner that few performers can achieve. Terfel related taking the Lieder prize in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989, which was won by Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Whilst Hvorostovsky’s success ensured that doors for roles at opera houses were opened for him, Terfel found that the only doors opened for him were for auditions. Later after singing Giovanni’s ‘Champagne’ Aria from Don Giovanni he said how pleased he was with his performance joking that he had managed to remember the words. Not only did Terfel walk determinedly onto the stage even before the applause had stopped for the previous song his magnificent voice was virtually straight into prime condition. I especially enjoyed the purpose and vigour given to the famous ‘Toréador’ Song’ from Bizet’s Carmen and in King Philip’s Monologue from Verdi’s Don Carlos he reached deep into his low register developing considerable weight. Least successful was probably ‘If I were a Rich Man’ from Bock and Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof, a song so inextricably linked for good reason with Israeli actor/singer Topol.
Strikingly presenting themselves in gorgeous gowns the two Welsh singers soprano Gwawr Edwards and mezzo-soprano Caryl Hughes were more than mere makeweights. Not only does Gwawr Edwards look stunning, her bright soprano voice is equally as lovely. Settling down quickly to sing with ease and fluidity every one of her three solo arias were excellently sung her voice projecting strongly through the hall. In ‘Juliette’s Waltz’ from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the sparkling soprano’s assured coloratura was a real highlight. Taking a little longer to get into her stride mezzo Caryl Hughes improved strongly through her three songs. From Rossini’s La Cenerentola the aria ‘Non più mesta’ exhibited her fine coloratura. Although having a strong voice relative to her small frame, at times she was rather smothered by the orchestra. In the famous ‘Flower duet’ from Delibes’s Lakmé Edwards and Hughes generated an appealing degree of expression. Standing alongside each other bolt upright they did however look rather wooden.
Substantially I enjoyed everything about this Bryn Terfel Opera Stars concert from the choice of music to the additional variety of voices provided by soprano Gwawr Edwards and mezzo Caryl Hughes – not forgetting the fine conducting from Gareth Jones, yet another product of Wales that turned the event virtually into an all Welsh evening rather than a one man show. Performing a wide and satisfying variety of material from renowned operatic arias to popular songs from Broadway musicals the packed audience at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall sat enthralled under the spell cast by the exceptionally talented Bryn. There are only a rare few artistes on the stage today that can hold an audience in the palm of their hands in such an engaging manner and Bryn Terfel is one of them.
Mozart: Overture, Don Giovanni;
Mozart: Madamina, il catalogo e questo (Catalogue Aria) from Don Giovanni (Bryn Terfel);
Donizetti: Ah! tardai troppo … O luce di quest’anima from Linda di Chamonix (Gwawr Edwards);
Mozart: Overture, The Marriage of Figaro;
Bizet: Les Toréadors (Toréador Song) from Carmen (Bryn Terfel);
Offenbach: Allez! Pour te livrer – Scintille diamant from The Tales of Hoffmann (Bryn Terfel);
Gounod: Faîtes-lui mes aveux from Faust (Caryl Hughes);
Delibes: Flower duet from Lakmé (Gwawr Edwards & Caryl Hughes);
Verdi: Ehi! paggio! from Falstaff (Bryn Terfel);
Verdi: Overture, Nabucco;
Verdi: Ella giammai m’amò (King Philip’s Monologue) from Don Carlos (Bryn Terfel);
Wagner: O du, mein holder Abendstern (Song to the evening star) from Tannhäuser, Act 3 (Bryn Terfel);
Rossini: Non più mesta from La Cenerentola (Caryl Hughes);
Gounod: Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Waltz) from Roméo et Juliette (Gwawr Edwards);
Mozart: Fin ch’han dal vino (Champagne Aria) from Don Giovanni (Bryn Terfel);
Frederick Loewe: How to handle a woman from Camelot (Bryn Terfel);
Frederick Loewe: I could have danced all night from My Fair Lady (Caryl Hughes)
Guy d’Hardelot: Because (Gwawr Edwards);
Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick: If I were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof (Bryn Terfel);
David Richards: Cymru fach (Dearest Wales) (Bryn Terfel, Gwawr Edwards & Caryl Hughes);
Rossini: Duetto buffo di due gatti (Melodie italiane No.1) (Gwawr Edwards & Caryl Hughes);
Traditional: Ar hyd y nos (All through the night) (Bryn Terfel, Gwawr Edwards & Caryl Hughes);