Shortage of good singing

Tosca @ King's Lynn Corn Exchange.

Tosca @ King's Lynn Corn Exchange

By David Johnson

Opera is fundamentally singing, other factors being secondary and a performance stands or falls by the quality of the singing.

In Saturday's presentation by the London Opera Players there were some very good voices but good voices alone are not enough.

It is how those voices are used that make the difference between good and not so good singers. These differences were the weak point in Saturday's performance.

The work was sung in English but from where I sat this was of little consequence as the words generally could simply not be heard – I understand that the problem did not exist to the same degree in other parts of the hall.

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As the ill-starred lovers, David Hillman as Cavaradossi and Margaret Pearman in the title role failed to generate the necessary passions and it was only with the entrance of Glyn Hall as the evil limping Scarpia that the tension began to build up reaching its climax in the Te Deum albeit performed with very small numbers.

The high spot of act two, Tosca's Vissi D'Arte, was given a very lacklustre rendering not conveying Tosca's inner torment.

In the final death scene the lovers produced ravishing tone but again with indistinguishable words.

Inevitably the reduced orchestra lacked the body of sound that would be produced by a larger body of players but nevertheless at times was somewhat strident and drowned the singers.

Conductor Richard Balcombe did little more than beat time, being frequently rather fast resulting in the singers rushing their words, again meaning a lack of clarity.

He drew little insensititivities from his forces, losing the beguiling phrases in the orchestration. This did however improve as the evening progressed.

The simple sets were very effective and the production was well dressed. These did not compensate for vocal shortcomings and lack of drama.

Many of the audience appeared to enjoy the performance but perhaps I was not in the mood and my eager anticipation was turned to disappointment.

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