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Handel - Orlando

Orlando – William Towers

Angelica – Rebecca Ryan

Medoro – Christopher Ainslie

Dorlinda – Martene Grimson

Zorastro – Nicholas Warden


Independent Opera Conductor – Gary Cooper
Wigmore Hall, London21 June 2008


 Independent Opera has come a long way in the two years since their production of Orlando November 2006.  Then they were still an emerging force on the London opera scene with just one earlier production staged in the relative obscurity of the Oratory School Theatre www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/liveevents/RossiniScalaSeta.htm


In that short period the company has established itself on a firm footing, not only with a list of future productions in the pipeline, but also with an even more impressive scholarship programme which is providing ongoing training support for more than 20 young singers.


The company clearly has something to celebrate, and on Mid-Summer Day the Wigmore Hall was bedecked with the most gorgeous of flower arrangements.  The cast for the evening’s concert performance was largely unchanged from 2006.  Only Joana Seara, whose fine acting skills had made her Dorinda outstanding, was absent, but Martene Grimson’s sweetness of tone more than compensated.   


Two of the singers, Rebecca Ryan and  Christopher Ainslie (who has justly won both the Handel and Tauber singing competitions in the intervening period) have benefited from IO Postgraduate Voice Fellowships, and their progress from a position of considerable merit to one of excellence was clearly evident.


I was also pleased to note that Nicholas Warden’s dark toned voice had gained in strength and now brought real authority to the role of the magician Zoroastro, and William Towers repeated his success in the testing title role, recreating the difficult balance of emotions, including the famous mad scene, without the aid of stage effects.  They were accompanied by a hand-picked orchestra, which included the theorboist Matthew Wadsworth who is no stranger to the Wigmore Hall platform, under the skilled direction of Gary Cooper.


Reservations – yes, a couple – there were moments when the enthusiasm and volume of the singing was rather greater than that ideally suited to the acoustics of the Hall, and a concert version that omitted most of the recitative and broke the action for an Interval into the middle of Act 2 deprived the opera of the developing relationship between the characters and hence its drama.  However, there was no denying the overall musical excellence, and it was a highly memorable evening.


Serena Fenwick