Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance 2018 review – ‘vocal and dramatic brilliance’
The Jette Parker Young Artists (JPYA) Summer Performance was up against the football World Cup Final and the Wimbledon Final, so it’s a tribute to the artists and the reputation of the programme that almost every seat in the house was full.
Directing the showcase for 11 singers and four music staff, the young Israeli JPYA Noa Naamat showed a mastery of different styles. She captured philosophical whimsy in Strauss’s Ariadne, swaggering melodrama in Thomas’s grand opera, Hamlet, melancholy darkness of Bedlam in The Rake’s Progress and the madcap final scene from Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri that revelled in split-second timing.
The orchestra of Opera North opened with the ebullient overture from La belle Hélène conducted by Matthew Scott Rogers. On a versatile set of tall panelled walls studded with doors and windows, lighting designer Nick Havell created a dream-like vision for Ariadne auf Naxos, bathed in dramatic blue and orange lighting, where diaphanous nymphs mingled with a Cabaret-style male chorus. Sarah-Jane Lewis as Prima Donna/Ariadne was regal in tone while Haegee Lee’s playful Zerbinetta provided the vocal fireworks, egged on by Dominic Sedgwick’s preening Harlequin.
Gyula Nagy overdid the brow-clutching and emoting as Hamlet, but Thomas Atkins’s mad scene from The Rake’s Progress was a dramatic highlight. His flexible tenor conveyed the ugliness and the beauty in Tom’s mania and his parting scene with Francesca Chiejina’s serene Ann Trulove was genuinely touching. In a painterly moment, the madhouse walls parted to reveal a sky full of thundery radiance, calling Tom to his death.
By contrast, in L’italiana in Algeri, Aigul Akhmetshina’s Isabella flirted outrageously with Simon Shibambu’s lovestruck Mustafà, throwing out coloratura flurries as she pulled off her white gloves finger by finger. The tightly choreographed closing ensemble, sung from behind giant pot plants, was a joyous summary of the young artists’ achievements on the JPYA programme.