- May 2013
a review byRoddie Dunnett
In 1951, Royal Opera singer, teacher and
conductor Audrey Langford and producer Ande Anderson, later Covent
Garden's Director of Productions, amassed an ensemble for the
postwar Festival of Britain. From this sprang Kentish Opera.
Working with some top directors (John Cox, John Copley and Colin
Graham) and conductors (Alex Ingram, and their present patron,
David Parry) landed Kentish Opera in the near-top bracket: up
there with Dorset, Buxton and Longborough.
Verdi's Aida is no newcomer to their vast repertoire which also
includes Nabucco; a shivering, top-class Rigoletto; The Force
of Destiny, Macbeth, La Traviata. They produced an exemplary
Orpheus in the Underworld in 2009. English opera flourished early
on: Riders to the Sea (Vaughan Williams/J. M. Synge), Sir John
in Love (also VW), and Ethel Smyth's The Boatwains's Mate. Theirs
is a track record to envy.
Toby Scholz is a tenor of hefty repertoire, His voice rode attractively
over the full chorus - no mean feat, for Kentish Opera choruses
are impressive, meaty affairs.
The ceremonial scenes
in praise of the god Ptah, featuring a large chorus resplendently
choreographed, were vital and energised. The dances (the staggeringly
experienced Terry John Bates, manipulating seven girl dancers)
are beautifully blocked and skillfully executed. The visuals
hum with life. Soprano Wolk-Lewanowicz has the attacking power
to pull off Mozart's blazing Donna Anna; and though her acting
offers nothing feisty here, when she lets rip she shines: exciting,
galvanising, electrifying even: vocally every inch an Aida.
Enid Strutt's set - she
has created well over 40 for this company - has its strengths
but also some drawbacks. Reliance on a single set of central
steps limited the scope for inventive movement. Far more impressive
were Carol Stevenson's costumes - some of the chorus ones superb,
the warriors' well-researched.
The detail beamed out from Robyn Sevastos' orchestra, like the
oboe hugging Radames' 'Céleste Aida'. I'd have loved to
hear Swedish bass-baritone Håkan Vramsmo, a singer of great
charisma and with a voice to die for, sing Amonasro, captive
king of the Nubians and Aida's father.
I needn't have worried.
Vramsmo alternated Mark Saberton, one of the most impressive
character singers of his generation: a major star this, or any,
company should forthwith engage to sing Verdi's (or Salieri's)
Falstaff, for he is tailor-made for the role. Saberton's seething
arrival amid imprisoned entourage lifted this Aida onto an entire
new plane. Here is a singer whose talent and experience place
him on a European, even worldwide, plane. The voice, like the
persona, are stupendous. Saberton knows how to produce the notes,
and to mould them: he delivers them with astounding authority,
firmness and ferocity. Rolling those mesmerising, suffering eyes,
Saberton (he was Kentish Opera's vile, beastly Rigoletto) is
an electrifying performer to watch and a sensational one to hear.
It's his performance that puts this Aida into the realm of a
Extracts from a review by Pippa Hare
Kentish Opera once again
produced a splendid 'show' for their sixtieth anniversary year
with a production of AIDA by Giuseppi Verdi, first performed
in 1869 at the Italian Theatre in Cairo. What a giant task it
must have been for Sally Langford but her expert direction shone
through. Terry John Bates whose responsibility it was to inspire
the dancers in their routines produced a very polished result
and what scope there was for Carol Stevenson who designed the
The colours in
particular in Scene 2, The City of Thebes were vivid, especially
the bright emerald green of the dancing girls' costumes and their
giant gold 'fans' were a visual delight. With the whole cast
on stage all slotting in like a human jigsaw, and each performer
adding to the whole was a sight to see. Terry John Bates did
a great job, enhanced by Carol Stevenson's wonderful costumes.
To pick out just a few
of the singers, firstly I have to mention Mark Saberton (Amanasro)
whose strong clear baritone voice was a joy to hear. The tenor
Toby Sholtz as Radames managed his long part well and produced
a good clear sound. Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz played a sensitive
Aida and managed well to sustain her long arias and with ease.
The orchestra, under the direction of Robyn Sevastos, tucked
away in their little pit, produced a very pleasing sound, never
too loud, keeping just 'underneath' the singers. A special mention
should be given for the trumpeters, Alex Cromwell and Matilda
I should also like to congratulate Graham Copeland for his excellent