Fresh and inventive, its hard to believe that the Classical Opera Company will enter its 15th year of music making in 2012. Their success is partly down to a judicious choice of singers and repertoire. The former are young, keen and talented; and the latter consists mainly of operatic rarities that are nevertheless accessible to general as well as specialist audiences.
Founder, artistic director and conductor Ian Page chose Mozarts 1775 gem Il Re Pastore to showcase the talents of his latest crop of protgs. Composed to celebrate the visit of Archduke Maximilian Franz (the youngest son of Empress Maria Theresa) to the court of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, the opera was styled a Serenata in Two Acts, since the Archbishops Palace had no theatre in which to stage it. These two concert performances in Hall One at Kings Place were therefore, entirely appropriate.
Sarah-Jane Brandon dropped out at short notice, leaving Martine Grimson to take the title role of Aminta, the boy king of Sidon who lives the simple life until rediscovered and restored to his throne by an invading Alexander the Great. Firm, flexible and with the right kind of timbre, she invested her role with convincing characterisation. Her opposite number, Elizabeth Bailey as Amintas love interest Elisa, was less convincing. True, her music was less sparkling, but there was also a hollow ring to some of her vocal and dramatic gesturing.
Thomas Hobbs made for a sturdy Alexander, while Alexander Spragues lithe tenor voice brightened the slightly dour role of Agenore, a Sidon nobleman and Alexanders yes man in the kingdom. The part of Tamiri, the object of Agenores affections, was taken by a silver-voiced Mary Bevan. While her sister Sophie treads the boards at the Coliseum in ENOs dodgy staging of Castor and Pollux, Mary gave a dignified and assured rendition of a role that prefigures several female roles in some of Mozarts later mature operas.
Presiding over the whole enterprise was the genial Ian Page. The warm rapport he enjoys with his singers and players was clearly evident in his supportive and encouraging direction from the podium. The instrumentalists of the Classical Opera Company gave their best, with some particularly fine playing by the woodwind and four horn players. There was well-deserved applause too for leader Matthew Truscott, who contributed some superb playing.
Further details of Kings Place concerts can be found at kingsplace.co.uk