Jette Parker Young Artists, Linbury Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

A student showcase may not sound like much, but when those students belong to the Jette Parker Young Artists scheme, talent spotters turn out in droves. Alfie Boe, Jacques Imbrailo, Ailish Tynan, and Sally Matthews are just a few of the established stars who cut their teeth on this visionary scheme, which in their day bore the name of the now-disgraced financier Alberto Vilar.

I had constantly to remind myself that their brilliant production of Haydn’s ‘L’isola disabitata’ was a cut-price student job, not a spare-no-expenses operation for the main stage upstairs. Its clever young director Rodula Gaitanou could teach the big shots a thing or two about how to evoke post-apocalypse disaster, and its lead soprano’s performance would have bewitched the most jaded cognoscenti: if Anna Devin doesn’t make it very big in the very near future, I’ll sling my hook.

We were told the young British baritone Daniel Grice was not well, but he sang with lovely plangency, while the American tenor Steven Ebel lit up the stage with a tone of soaring sweetness. It was tough on the British soprano Elisabeth Meister that her part did not allow her to shine as Devin’s did her, but what this young Irishwoman extracted from her bizarre role was remarkable both musically and dramatically. Her high notes were effortlessly floated, with her voice at times dying to a delicate thread; she turned her character into a joyfully upbeat version of Caliban, a study in dawning sexuality.

But this show was just the icing on the cake: all week the ten singers on the scheme have been giving lunchtime recitals, and we talent-spotters have been marking our cards. I will be amazed if the Korean tenor Ji Hyun Kim doesn’t become a household name, because the generous beauty of his voice is only part of it: his timing and dramatic sense is impeccable, and he does comedy with irresistible charm. Meister’s tone is a touch hard, but she has the power to cut through the biggest orchestra; the New Zealand soprano Madeleine Pierard has comparable force, with a finely controlled coloratura. I also expect to hear more of mezzo Kai Ruutel, baritones Dawid Kimberg and ZhengZhong [sic] Zhou, and bass Lukas Jakobski. Bravos all round.

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