A review by Julia Gasper
The Oxford Opera Society put on its inaugural event on Monday 26th November at the Church of St Michael’s at the Northgate. This enterprising group of young musicians have many skills and a lot of enthusiasm, which should make some of them the stars of the future.
The audience was treated to seven fully-staged scenes from well-loved operas by Mozart, Verdi, Bizet and others. These were presented with costumes, action and some complicated explanations by way of introduction that did not always wholly elucidate the proverbially tangled opera plots.
In the scene from Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (The Secret Marriage), we had a spirited confrontation between two sopranos, the sisters Carolina (Laura Coppinger) and Elisetta (Emily Neil). The part of their scolding aunt was very ably taken by Alicja Zurawska. All three performer sang stylishly and with verve, Zurawska’s glowing contralto voice and considerable acting skills brought out the comedy aspects of the piece.
Next came a scene from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, in which the incorrigible libertine is inveigling an innocent young woman, in the aria “La, ci darem’ la mano.” Alan Kotlyar made a very charming and insinuating Don, while Kiki Power made a rather nervous and stand-offish Zerlina, clearly not taken in by him for a moment.
A scene from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro followed, with Countess Rosina and her clever maid Susanna presented in a modern setting. Both wore trousers, Susanna consulted her mobile phone and there was a laptop on the table, and why not? The problem of a straying partner is timeless. Clare Fitzgerald sang with sensitive phrasing and a lovely voice.
The scene from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) featured a lot of hearty revellers, sung by tenors and basses including Josh Taylor and Ben Watkins. They created an atmosphere that blended merriment with menace and the music was all very catchy and hummable.
“Regina Coeli” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana did not fail to capture the audience with its grand tune taken by a full chorus, dressed for Easter Mass in an Italian country church. Love, agony, and piety all blended well.
Then we had another all-female scene, the card scene from Bizet’s Carmen. Carmen turns pale as two other gypsies tell fortunes and her fate is brutally spelled out. “La mort! La Mort!” – Death. In this scene too, the acting of Alicja Zurawska, with her agreeable voice, showed thought and insight into the story.
The concert concluded with the finale from The Marriage of Figaro, in which all the singers had a role, led by Joshua Taylor as the naughty husband and Clare Fitzgerald as the wronged Countess. It was all good entertainment, and credit must be given to the conductor, Chris Blex and the very able agile piano accompanist Osman Tack.
Julia Gasper. Note for video of part of the performance see https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6473285217292476416
Opera Scenes Cast List
Producers: Antonida Kocharova and Isabella Pitman
Directors: Francesca German and Toni Scharle
Musical Director: Chris Blex
Piano: Osman Tack
Stage Manager: Nicholas Simpson
Lighting: Tom Newport
Repetiteurs: Josh Ridley, Tamsin Sandford-Smith, Ben Banks
Costumes and props: The Grange Festival
‘Signora sorellina…’ from Il matrimonio segreto, Cimarosa
Carolina: Laura Coppinger
Elisetta: Emily Neil
Fidalma: Alicja Zurawska
‘Là ci darem la mano’ from Don Giovanni, Mozart
Zerlina: Kiki Power
Don Giovanni: Alan Kotlyar
‘Sull’aria…’ from Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart
Countess: Clare Fitzgerald
Susanna: Antonida Kocharova
‘Ve’ se di notte’ from Un ballo in maschera, Verdi
Renato – Josh Taylor
Amelia – Clare Fitzgerald
Samuel – Ben Watkins
Tom – Josh Bamford
Chorus – Ethan YiCheng Zhang, Alan Kotlyar
‘Regina Coeli’ from Cavalleria Rusticana, Mascagni
Santuzza: Isabella Pitman
Lucia: Alicja Zurawska
Soprano 1 – Clare Fitzgerald, Kiki Power, Laura Coppinger
Soprano 2 – Antonida Kocharova, Emily Neil
Alto – Kristiana Mitrollari, Francesca Duke, Jessica Fatoye, Zhao Ng
Tenor 1 – Ethan YiCheng Zhang
Tenor 2 – Joshua Bamford
Bass 1 – Joshua Taylor, Benjamin Watkins
Bass 2 – Alan Kotlyar
‘Mêlons! Coupons!’ from Carmen, Bizet
Carmen: Antonida Kocharova
Frasquita: Francesca Power
Mercedes: Alicja Zurawska
‘Gente, gente…’ Act IV finale from Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart
Count: Joshua Taylor
Countess: Clare Fitzgerald
Figaro: Alan Kotlyar
Susanna: Emily Neil
Cherubino: Zhao Ng
Marcellina: Jessica Fatoye
Barbarina: Francesca Duke
Bartolo: Benjamin Watkins
Curzio: Ethan YiCheng Zhang
Antonio: Joshua Bamford