DiDonato/ Calleja/ Hampson/ Vassilev/ Pappano, Royal Opera House, London
Wednesday 01 July 2009
Only the Royal Opera House could lose one star (the indisposed Dmitri Hvorostovsky) and find three others; well, five actually since Antonio Pappano, the evening's inspired accompanist, brought with him his orchestra's concert master, Vasko Vassilev, serenading us with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in so homespun a manner as to turn a public concert into a private soirée.
Truly, this hurriedly prepared concert party felt so deliciously informal and spontaneous that you could only wonder at how such diverse material had been assembled with such diligence and at such speed. The answer, of course, is Pappano whose hands-on stewardship of this house inspires artists to go the extra distance for him. It is a measure of the respect he commands that Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja gave up their time to avert cancellation.
But for all the vocal skill on display here, it was Pappano who modestly, discreetly, dazzled at the piano. His unfailing musicality and sense of style is what makes him such an outstanding music director and here he was exemplifying just such attributes at the keyboard, effortlessly straddling a repertoire from five different nationalities with self-effacing deftness and insight.
Here, he twinkled and sashayed around Joyce DiDonato as she teased out the dusky charms of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat. It's amazing just how much a number like this has in common with the enticing come-ons of Rossini's song triptych La Regata Veneziana where the sultry Anzoleta offers her own very particular incentives to her dreamy oarsman. There was more Rossini with DiDonato limpidly navigating the arabesques of the "Willow Song" from Otello.
Thomas Hampson gave us Mahler's Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen still, after all these years, retaining the rapture of youth through the honeyed legato of his trademark head-voice and Joseph Calleja showed off his warm, well-upholstered, tenor in a series of Italian and French bonbons. How he nailed Rodrigue's aria from Massanet's Le Cid. He and Hampson could not have escaped The Pearl Fishers duet – they nailed that, too, the blend of timbres reminding us why they make such a convincing father-and-son act in Traviata. Pure pleasure.
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
Arts & Ents blogs
The desolation of the Weinstein brothers: Film producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
Christmas songs: the best and the worst
X Factor winners: Where are they now?
Your Money, Money, Money please - Abba ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
Lost Peter Sellers films Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You hailed as the movie equivalent of 'finding Dead Sea Scrolls'
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 John McAfee's $100 'anti-NSA' device: 'this is coming and cannot be stopped'
- 3 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 4 Is Facebook making us forget? Study shows that taking pictures ruin memories
- 5 Australia incest case: Filthy and severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding