Faenol Festival, Dyfedd
For four August nights a field called Faenol in Snowdon's foothills becomes an oasis created by the local lad, Farmer Jones's boy Bryn. Here, they call it Brynfest.
Opera not always being the first music choice for all North Walians, since the first Faenol seven years ago Bryn Terfel (real name Jones) has shored up the core concert with folk, rock, and middle-of-the-road on following nights. This time he added pop as an opener and 12,000 turned up to see Westlife start Faenol 2006 off.
Almost as many turned up the next night for Terf el and his guests, Angela Gheorghiu and Rolando Villazón, with Welsh National Opera's orchestra and chorus, and songs from Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini, Bizet and Gershwin. Terfel had announced Villazón as the next great operatic tenor, but the young Mexican established his own credentials. First it was with "Recondita Armonia" from Tosca, Terfel's personal choice in which the 33-year-old Mexican quickly showed his range, passion and acting instinct.
Then in his duet with Gheorghiu, "Caro Eliser! Sei Mio" from L'elisir d'amore, he showed his devotion by wooing her while drinking from a can of beer and then juggling three oranges, without dropping a note.
What brought the audience to their feet for the first time, though, was the "Au Fond du Temple Saint" duet from The Pearl Fishers with Terfel, and they were up again for Villazón's rendering of "Júrame"by the Mexican songwriter Maria Grever.
The title means "promise me", and as they stood they would have given him anything. Gheorghiu took her time settling into the family atmosphere but by the end of "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schicchi, in which she invested all her power and poignancy, her dues were paid. Terfel himself can do no wrong here but there were gasps as the audience had an unaccustomed glimpse of his villain with Scarpia's potently scary "Te Deum" from Tosca, his most recent Covent Garden role.
Dame Shirley Bassey got the atmosphere straight away. She sashayed in her lemon sequins and boa feathers; she teased as she flashed a thigh to the hip, and she seduced as she belted out as only she can. If the expectation is that it's only the familiar "Goldfinger" "Big Spender" "Light My Fire" rep that she does these days, there was also a warm reception for a new song, "The Living Tree".
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