Lady in red

Happy to see that the people behind the Rosenblatt Recital Series have now uploaded some video footage from the terrific concert by Ailyn Pérez and Iain Burnside at St John’s Smith Square on 7th March, giving me a good excuse to post some rather belated thoughts on the recital (which predated the birth of this blog by six days) and on the Rosenblatt series in general.

(Update, 18th March: Three additional items now available in audio only!)

Here’s some Hahn for starters…

The Rosenblatt Recitals hold a unique place on London’s musical scene.  Visit the Wigmore Hall for a solo vocal recital and you are virtually guaranteed a song-only programme.  Guest recitalists at the Barbican tend to strike more of a balance between song and opera, but in a hall designed to accommodate a symphony orchestra, and usually as part of a promotional tour in association with a new disc.  The Rosenblatt series is, as far as I know, the only dedicated, co-ordinated vocal recital series in London to combine song and opera elements in an appropriate space, showcasing an astutely-picked selection of rising stars and more established artists.

It is only in the last few months that I have been attending these recitals regularly.  I used to catch one or two a year, always when the soloist was somebody with whom I was already familiar, but this season so far I’ve been to six out of seven.  I’d intended to miss this one, for which the scheduled soloist was tenor Giuseppe Filianoti, due to an extraordinary number of competing events on the same evening – I originally had a ticket for Jonas Kaufmann’s Mahler and Strauss concert in Birmingham.  But following my recent month-long (and then some!) love affair with Pérez’s Violetta at Covent Garden, the news that she would be taking over this recital from her indisposed colleague, giving me my first opportunity to hear her in a wider variety of repertoire, caused me to discard my long-held plans and secure a ticket immediately.  It’s unfortunate, judging by the complete absence of press coverage, that none of the national newspapers could apparently find anybody to do the same – indeed, press interest in the Rosenblatt series in general seems almost non-existent, for reasons I can’t fathom.

From Hahn and Falla songs in the first half to a generously-proportioned operatic programme of Massenet, Verdi and Puccini in the second, Pérez’s artistry was displayed across a wide dramatic range, and she has a natural communicative gift for inhabiting a character and revealing it to the audience without seeming to stand between one and the other.  The unquestionable highlights for me were her two contrasting Manon arias – an effervescent ‘Je suis encor tout étourdie’ and painfully wistful ‘Adieu, notre petite table’ – and her Desdemona, which was spellbinding in its melancholy intensity. When out of character, Pérez’s bubbly demeanour was utterly disarming, extending to a good deal of banter with the audience both between concert items and during a meet-and-greet afterwards, and despite a second half dominated by deeply involving performances of serious arias, the tone of the evening was bright and cheerful.  How very nice it was to see a recitalist exude such obviously genuine delight at being there!

The series continues with sopranos Marina Rebeka (18th April) and Sylvia Schwartz (20th June) – top price is only £20.  There is also a rare visit to the Royal Albert Hall on 8th May for a superstar recital with orchestra – Juan Diego Flórez and the Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn.

Disappointingly, Pérez’s name is absent from the Royal Opera’s newly-revealed 2012/13 roster, though she dropped hints that she will be back at least twice in the following season.  But for now, just watch this and see why I think she is such a wonderful artist, and why I’m seriously considering a long-haul trip when she makes her role debut as Desdemona.

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