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Venue: Opera Holland Park

Violetta and Tatyana
5.0Reviewer's rating

Making a formidable return to music-making, Opera Holland Park’s latest recital series was a tonic for concert-goers. “Opera in Song”, a collaborative project pioneered by baritone Julien Van Mellaerts and pianist Dylan Perez sought to showcase familiar roles—in this case, Verdi’s Violetta and Tchaikovsky’s Tatyana—alongside lesser-known musical gems. From Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets to traditional Armenian lullabies, the eclectic programme traced the different complexities of love.  

The first musical vignette of the evening—Claudio Silvestri’s Fantasia on La Traviata—was executed with both the genuine musicianship and flair of pianists Ella O’Neill and Dylan Perez. Attentive to the bright lyricism, nostalgia, and careful phrasing of Verdi’s score, the assured quality of the duet established the high quality of the evening to follow. Soprano Anush Hovhannisyan exuded charm as both performer and musical guide for the evening. With an emphasis on recital intimacy—acknowledging the strangeness of the past year-and-a-half, the appreciation for OHP’s support, and endearing gratitude for a full audience—Hovhannisyan’s talents abounded. Exploring lesser-known repertoire—two rarely performed Verdi songs: “La seduzione” and the “Ave Maria”—as well as apt historical prefaces for the music’s context, Hovhannisyan’s insight, made the recital’s theme blend seamlessly. Similarly, Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets, more frequently associated with devilish writing for solo piano, was here realised as the duet form. Highlighting Hovhannisyan’s wide range in register (a showcase for her enviable high notes and swelling crescendi), the songs —particularly “Pace non trovo”—soared over the piano’s delicacy. 

The program’s nuance was cast by having Verdi, Liszt, and three traditional Armenian love songs set together. Carried by the writing of Eduard Abrahamyan, Robert Petrosyan, and Komitas’s songs, the lines explored distinctly Armenian harmonies, with Hovhannisyan’s expression brought to the fore. 

The evening’s highlight, though, were three duets from Tchaikovsky’s Six Duets collection. Hovhannisyan and mezzo-soprano Lauren Young were formidable. The richness of Young’s tone beneath Hovhannisyan’s soaring soprano blended excellently, as did the pair’s camaraderie. Both tone and diction were neat and bright, but the most compelling feat of the duets was the chemistry between the performers. The accompanying expertise of Ella O’Neill again shone through Tchaikovsky’s most daunting moments.

To close the recital was another of Tchaikovsky’s staple works: this time, the final scene from Eugene Onegin performed by baritone Julien Van Mellaerts and Hovhannisyan. The notoriously demanding aspects of the work: relentless Russian syllables and a necessity for dramatic conflict were handled cautiously by Van Mellaerts and Hovhannisyan. The richness of Van Mellaerts’s baritone was constant, blending with ease against Hovhannisyan’s defiant Tatyana. Perhaps the opera’s Act I letter scene may have even further remedied the contextual component of the program’s intention, though, that being said, this vocal tour-de-force was one not to miss. OHP’s recital series boasted the company’s ethos excellently: the promise for a refreshing operatic experience. 

  • Opera
  • Opera Recital
  • Curated: Julien Van Mellaerts & Dylan Perez
  • Pianists: Ella O’Neill & Dylan Perez
  • Singers: Anush Hovhannisyan, Lauren Young, Julien Van Mellaerts
  • Venue: Opera Holland Park
  • Date and Time: Monday 26th July 2021, 7:30pm

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