Thursday, 27 September 2012

Poltimore Opera Gala Saturday 15 September

A new 'Opera Glass' line-up:
Soprano: Janet Macdonald  Mezzo-Soprano: Juliet Curnow
Bass: Julian Rippon  Tenor: Christopher Hunt
The autumn opera gala at Poltimore House is perhaps the most atmospheric musical event on the calendar. In 2010 mezzo-soprano Claire Powell and baritone Roderick Hunt joined Clyst Valley regulars Janet Macdonald and Christopher Hunt (no relation) for an unforgettable evening. As the last rays of the setting sun shone through the shattered windows of the entrance hall, a fascinated audience, provided with blankets, wrapped themselves up and spent two hours listening to our four talented and hardy soloists perform popular arias from classical opera.

The effect was unique. A trip back in time, both through the music and the atmosphere of that long abandoned house. exploring the other parts of the house in the interval only added to the effect - especially when people saw the looted and desolate, but still magnificent, ballroom. When that is finally restored, what concerts we can have!

Since then many others have performed in the magical environment of Poltimore House - Julian Rippon, mezzo Anneke Freeland - and Mary O'Shea (see snaps from last summer!)

The Poltimore House Trust and English Heritage, amongst others, have made great progress in raising the millions of pounds needed to restore the building. Now they take on a new challenge - asbestos! The house was used as a girl's school between the wars and then converted into a hospital. Somewhere along the line asbestos was introduced into the structure. Now it must be removed - safely and thoroughly. Although this does not increase the overall cost of reconstruction by a large factor, it has created a hiatus in the building programme.

MC: Peter Macdonald
Resourceful as ever, the Opera Glass organisers switched venue to the Poltimore Chapel (already free from asbestos). The chapel is relatively modern -built in the twentieth century, unlike the original house (sixteenth!). However, it does have a very special character of its own. with the grand piano installed, and four soloists lined up to sing, there is quite an atmosphere.

As always Peter Macdonald was master of ceremonies, introducing each aria with inciteful information and dry wit. Janet Macdonald and Chris Hunt were on top form, and joined by two more amazing soloists - mezzo Juliet Curnow and a familiar face from last summer, bass Julian Rippon. Julian and Juliet have performed together many times combining their professional talents and experience to astound audiences all over Devon.

piano:Margaret Chave
Incredibly, they were to perform together again less than 24 hours later at Exeter University Great Hall in Marion Wood's performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony with the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra, choirs, and eight soloists in all. Julian and Juliet sang in Part1 (Veni Creator Spiritus) and played Peter Profundus and Maria Aegyptiaca in Part 2 (Faust). (see detailed story, rehearsal photos, performance photos)

The quality of the singing, the supremely sensitive piano accompaniment by two new accompanists, Margaret Chave and Dorothy Raven, and the special quality of that wooden building, resulted in a most glorious sound. Every word was clear (and non-English lyrics were translated in a very handy little leaflet). The performers, knowing they were getting their message across loud and clear, injected effortless wit and character into their respective parts.

 George Frederick Handel
Rinaldo (1711)
a 'trouser role' for Juliet
Janet Macdonald is Almirena
Juliet Curnow is Rinaldo
"Scherzano sul tuo volto"
(The Charming Graces
Play in your Face)
two voices perfectly balanced
Semele (1743)
Chris Hunt is Jupiter
"Where e'er you Walk"
very strong controlled dynamics
Janet Macdonald is Semele
"Endless Pleasure"
very passionate

Julian Rippon is Somnus
"Leave me, Loathesome Light"
a deep resonant bass voice
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Stabat Mater (1736)
Christopher Hunt & Julian Rippon
"Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta crucem lacrimosa
dum pendebat filius"
(A mother stood sadly,

crying by the Cross
where her son hung)
so beautiful, we had to have it
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cosi fan Tutte (1790)
      Everybody's doing it . . .
Janet Macdonald is 
Juliet Curnow is 
Julian Rippon is Don Alfonso
"Soave sia il Vento"
(May the Winds be Gentle)
- as Ferrando & Guglielmo
sail to war (supposedly)
Janet Macdonald is Despina
"In uomini, in soldati,
sperare fedeltà
(You trust men? Soldiers?)
A very military maid - with a
feather duster as a swagger-stick.
Juliet Curnow is Dorabella
Julian Rippon is Guglielmo
"Il Core vi dono"
(I give you my Heart)
Can he win over Ferrando's fiancée?
- with a heart pendant?
So far, so good . . .
It seems to be working . . .
Léo Delibes
Lakmé (1883)
Janet Macdonald is Lakmé
Juliet Curnow is Mallika
"Sous le Dôme Épais"
(Under the Dense Canopy)
complementary soprano voices
Giuseppe Verdi
Rigoletto (1851)
Janet Macdonald is Gilda
Julian Rippon is Rigoletto
"God, give me courage!"
Alison Macdonald plays Oboe
to relieve the tension
"Yes! Revenge! Terrible Revenge!"
Julian becomes impassioned
a very serious jester
Georges Bizet
Carmen (1875)
Juliet Curnow is Carmen
"Prés des Remparts de S
beautiful folk music from Castille
sung in extra-low, sultry French
Janet Macdonald is Micaëla
Christopher Hunt is Don José
"Parle-moi de ma Mère!"
(Tell me about my Mother)
a fascinating and very musical dialogue
Juliet Curnow is Carmen
Julien Rippon is Escamillo
"Si tu m'aimes, Carmen"
(If you love me, Carmen)
he woos her with beautifull crooning
Julian Rippon is Escamillo
"Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre"
       (I give you a toast . . . )
a very familiar theme
     All together . . .
"Oui, les Toreros, peuvent s'enterdre"
(Yes, the Toreadors have got the right idea)
The Toreador's Song!


Don't forget the pianists
Margaret Chave & Dorothy Raven


Julian Rippon
Juliet Curnow, Janet Macdonald

Margaret Chave, Chris Hunt, Alison Macdonald
Dorothy Raven, Julian Rippon
Oboist, Alison Macdonald
archeologist and historian
Simon Tootell is quizzed about
how the restoration is progressing
by Janet Macdonald
a work in progress - with support from
The Arts & Humanities Research Council
and Exeter University Archaeology & History Faculty
restored rooms
are utilitarian but very sound
a perfect space for educational and
and historical interpretation displays
To find out more about the renovation of Poltimore House, how to help with the restoration, and ways in which the house is already 'open for business', contact the Poltimore House Trust

The Next Opera event is

left: Janet Macdonald
Phil Bonser & Margaret Chave
above: Iain McDonald
(with Michéle Banting at Glenorchy)
Opera Glass
Exeter Central Library Music Room
Thursday 11 October 1.10pm
Songs Duets & Clarinet Favourites
Vaughan Williams, Faure, Finzi, Spohr
Bizet, Gershwin, Thomas Dunhill
Soprano: Janet Macdonald
Baritone: Iain McDonald
Piano: Margaret Chave
Clarinet: Philip Bonser
Tickets: £4
Box Office 01392 71858

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