Opera + Classical Music Features

London Lyric Opera: Fidelio

Following a concert performance of Der fliegende Hllander at the Barbican in November, London Lyric Opera present Fidelio at Cadogan Hall next week.

Among the attractions will be soprano Elizabeth Connell reprising her portrayal of the title heroine and a conductor much nearer the beginning of her career.

While Connell is a seasoned and highly experienced performer, Madeleine Lovell is hardly a complete beginner. With an impressive bulk of work behind her as a chorus director, and increasingly as a conductor, she is on the point of making a major impact as one of relatively few women conductors working in the UK.

Lovell has worked with the BBC Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Chorus, and the Philharmonia Chorus, among others, and has also been involved with London Lyric Opera from the beginning, She conducted the group’s inaugural concert (a programme of orchestral song cycles entitled Cycles) at Cadogan Hall and also assisted Lionel Friend on the Dutchman concert.

Still only 30, Lovell has a glittering academic career behind her, having graduated with a double starred first in music at King’s College, Cambridge, and an M.Phil in Musicology. She went on to spend two years researching opera and is currently Director of Music at Queen’s College, Cambridge. She tells me, at a rest point the week before the Fidelio performance, that her academic career is still of tremendous importance to her.

Her credits are much more extensive but such is the difficulty women still have breaking in to a male-dominated sphere, recognition has been somewhat slow. It would be easy to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a woman conductor but Lovell, refreshingly, says that, while all too aware of the issues early in her career, she now finds she’s able to relax and not think about it. “I feel accepted now,” she says, brimming with confidence and optimism.

Inevitably, there are women on her list of admired conductors. “I was taught by Sian Edwards and she was an unbelievably inspirational teacher and a lovely person,” she says, “I also respect Simone Young enormously.” Among contemporary male counterparts, she cites Chailly (“incredibly exciting”), Muti, Ricci and Pappano as influences. “I really admire Pappano for his Wagner conducting,” she adds.

She is not short on ambition, with the Royal Opera House and ENO in her sights, as well as engagements on the platform with major orchestras. For now, she’s busy and very happy working with St George’s Chamber Orchestra and the chamber choir Londinium, both of which she music directs. As a keen linguist, she also loves travelling to work, with engagements in the Netherlands and Hong Kong looming.

In addition to Elizabeth Connell, who has sung the role of Leonora at Covent Garden and worldwide, the performance of Beethoven’s opera boasts the participation of Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts as Florestan, the excellent young tenor Andrew Staples as Jaquino and, singing Marzelline, a promising soprano Rachel Nicholls, seen at Covent Garden most recently as Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos. The Philharmonia Chorus will join forces with the Queens College Chapel Choir.

If there are not riches enough in this line-up, Madeleine Lovell conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra adds enormously to the attraction of the event.

London Lyric Opera’s concert performance of Fidelio will be at Cadogan Hall on Tuesday 17 February. Tickets on 020 7730 4500 or www.cadoganhall.com

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