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16 oct. 2014

ROLANDO VILLAZÓN, PUMEZA MATSHIKIZA - OPERA GALA LONDON 14/10/14


foto@GerardoDasyel


I read a few days ago that the 2,500 seat Royal Festival Hall was set to be only half-full for this concert, if so, there must have been a late rush for tickets!!  I could not see any free seats from my position in the Hall and even heard a security guard trying to sort out a problem with two audience members who both had tickets for the same seat!  The concert attracted a nicely mixed crowd of old and young attendees and, from what I could tell, classical music aficionados, Rolando-fans and people who had come looking for something new.

Wow, they were in for a treat!  Rolando began with 'O souverain, o juge, o pere' - he strode onto the stage somberly dressed in a black suit, gripped the bar of the conductor's podium [forgive me if I've got the terminology wrong :) ] and gazed at the audience like a man about to climb a mountain or face a firing squad.  The atmosphere was instantly charged before the first note and the tension grew through the beautifully consoling music of the introduction.  And then Rolando sang.  Plaintively, powerfully, sublimely.  A hero trying to find his courage and surrender his fate to God.  Each gesture perfectly suited to telegraph hope and fear until the strong affirmative trust of that last note.  A little silence at the end and then the tension left his body as he relaxed into the audience's enthusiastic applause.  Where do those characters go when Rolando releases them?

Rolando's concert partner, Pumeza Matshikiza, also dressed elegantly in black, continued the mood and sang a piece I had not heard before, 'Elegie', by Massenet.  This aria seemed to have an unsettling, febrile melancholy which was heightened by the sense you get when listening to Pumeza's rich voice that you are listening to an old recording (in a good way!).

And then the first duet!!  'Leila! Leila! Dieu puissant ...'.  Energetic and dynamic as Leila tries to reject Nadir and then passionate and dreamy as they recall and rekindle their love.  Rolando and Pumeza's voices blended well together and they had great chemistry especially considering that this was only the second concert of their tour.

Rolando's second solo aria was 'E la solita storia del pastore'.  I have always been struck by how much sadness and longing Rolando injects into this aria in his recordings but in this performance I was awed by the amount of anguish, pain and anger he communicated. Rolando's voice rang strongly through the Hall which seemed to reverberate in a kind of shock to his last cry of 'Ahime!'  There was a sort of 'whoosh' as the audience remembered to breathe again followed by thunderous applause.  I felt in strong need of a cup of tea and a lie down after this mesmeric performance and was still recovering as Pumeza sang an enjoyable 'Signore ascolta!' from Turandot.

The last duet before the interval seemed to have arrived in no time at all.  'O soave fanciulla' was touchingly and convincingly performed.  The orchestra was a little over-powering at times but it did not ruin the performance and I loved the delighted relish Rolando managed to convey in Rodolfo's cheeky 'E al ritorno?'

After the fire and fury of the first half we enjoyed the fun and frolics of the second beginning with the overture from Don Pasquale.  The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under Guerassim Voronkov clearly enjoyed this piece; it was full of energy and playfulness and occasionally you would see a musician smiling to themselves or catch a smile from  musician to conductor.

After the applause died down, Rolando sauntered onto the stage cradling a bottle of beer for a superbly entertaining 'Caro elisir'.  The following duet, 'Esulti pur la barbara'  staged on the theme 'Anything you can do, I can do better' reminded me of a Hollywood screwball comedy.  Pumeza made a witty and vivacious Adina and Rolando a blissfully newly-confident and swaggering Nemorino.  Rolando's shiny shoes and eyes twinkled as he danced up and down the stage to the increasing annoyance and exasperation of his Adina.

Another well-performed aria from Pumeza and then one of the jewels of Rolando's repertoire and this concert -  'Una furtiva lagrima'.   Rolando always performs this aria in a way that takes you on a journey as Nemorino works his way to the wonderful discovery that Adina really does love him.  I can only marvel at how Rolando makes it seem as if each thought has come spontaneously to Nemorino, portraying all at once delight, surprise, wonder and humility whilst at the same time singing  such a difficult aria with such breathtaking beauty. 

The zarzuela arias and duets were special, particularly 'Ya mis horas felices' - sparkling and shimmering with colours like a bull-fighter's costume and brimming with pride and passion.  By this time in the concert Pumeza and Rolando were singing with a freedom and verve that was really exciting and 'Si torero quiero se' ended the official program on a wonderful high.

After sustained applause, there were encores to enjoy - the brilliant 'Pata Pata' in the Xhosa language of South Africa [Rolando explained in advance the consonant click and then duly inserted them into his verses of the song with the joy and precision of a man carefully placing a prized object on shelf of treasured possessions], 'Tonight, tonight' and then 'Brindisi', greeted with a cheer by the audience and rewarded with a standing ovation.

As the audience finally left the concert hall there was an excited hubbub and it felt like we'd all just left the best party ever.  There was no signing afterwards, perhaps due to the late finish or demanding program, but Rolando met many fans and well-wishers at the Stage Door and was extremely generous with his time.  He also mentioned that he would be back in London at some point in the future (2015/16?) for 'L'Elisir D'Amore'!!!!!  Yay!!!!!!!!

Sarah

Thank you very much to Sarah and Anne

Read another very interesting review, by Leeann Chen:


foto: Anne


foto: @TheMexLondoner 
foto: facebook Leeann Chen

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

foto: Anne

3 comentarios:

  1. Catherincita16/10/14 9:21

    Toutes mes félicitations à Sarah et aussi"" many thanks" pour cette longue et magnifique chronique qui foisonne de multiples détails passionnants et d'observations personnelles sensibles et divertissantes : grâce à ce récit très vivant, j'ai eu l'impression de participer à cette soirée et les comparaisons de l'homme qui va escalader une montagne et de Rolando comme "a hero" m'ont paru particulièrement justes.
    La spontanéïté du récit est en accord parfait avec la personnalité de Rolando et Sarah nous transmet les informations avec tout son coeur.
    Les photos d'Anne sont un régal pour les yeux et les mimiques de chacun prouvent la bonne humeur partagée après un concert triomphal.

    Que la fête continue tout au long de cette tournée qui s'annonce comme un grand événement de la saison lyrique. !
    Bravissimi Rolando et Pumeza !!

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  2. Many, many thanks, merci infiniment à Sarah pour sa chronique qui m'a enchantée, et qui m'a donné du bonheur pour toute cette journée.

    En la lisant j'ai cru entendre Rolando avec sa voix merveilleuse et je pouvais le visualiser sur scène, avec toute la chaleur et les émotions qu'il dégage.

    Bientôt Paris, j'en suis très impatiente, c'est la première fois que je verrai sur scène Rolando dans ces airs merveilleux que j'adore, " le Cid, les pècheurs de perles, E la solita storia" !!!

    Un très grand merci à Anne pour ses merveilleuses photos, une fois encore Rolando est chargé de cadeaux comme à la fin de chaque concert : c'est Noël pour lui tous les jours ou presque !!!

    Bravo à Rolando et à Pumeza et à bientôt.

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  3. Thank you for the kind comments. I very much enjoyed Leeann Chen's review and, of course, Anne's great photos! I know all the Villazonistas will enjoy their turn as much as I did.:) Big hugs to all of you. xxx

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