Sunday, 26 September 2021

Duettists' dialogue was a serious treat

Duettists' dialogue was a serious treat

It Takes Two — an Evening Recital of Duets | Opera Prelude, Fawley | Friday, May 19

IN a celebration of song and opera, Opera Prelude put on a serious treat in Fawley on Friday.

Infrequently heard on the concert stage, it was a rare pleasure to hear highlights of the duets repertoire.

Imaginative programming explored not only the technical demands of this music, but the expressive interplay between the two voices and characters.

We enjoyed German lieder by Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, as well as French chansons by Chausson, Poulenc and Debussy, and then some well-loved operatic comic and love duets.

Two of Opera Prelude’s young artists, soprano Callie Gaston and mezzo-soprano Amy Lyddon were joined by baritone Michael Craddock, impressively stepping into an unexpected breech owing to illness, with Laurie O’Brien on piano.

It is one thing listening to solo voice and piano, but quite another altogether to hear the dialogue between two singers.

Overall the blend of voices, the musical interpretation and communication between the singers was excellent.

The interesting and anecdotal introductions to each item by the artists made for an engaging evening.

Amy Lyddon’s warm tones were well suited to the German repertoire, showing an understanding of vocal colour in the Schumann and Brahms lieder and clear German diction throughout.

There was some fine expressive singing from Lyddon and Michael Craddock in three of the Vier Duette opus 28 by Brahms. They clearly enjoyed singing these duets, taking the last, Der Jäger und sein Liebchen, at quite a lick over some alert piano-playing by Laurie O’Brien.

The French part of the programme could perhaps have been a little more earthy and opulent.

However, there were some beautiful moments with relaxed sonorous singing from Craddock and fine articulation of the Spanish rhythms from Callie Gaston in Debussy’s Chanson Espagnole.

Opera blockbusters included the famous Flower Duet from Delibes’ Lakmé, the gentle Evening Prayer from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, as well as excerpts from Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

Gaston’s technical precision and accuracy was well suited to the soprano lines in Saint-Saens’s Pauvre Fille from Henry VIII, her top notes spot on every time, and there was some fine expressive performing from all three singers.

Rossini’s popular Cat Duet for two sopranos — characterised by the singers as “We like to think it’s how we behave backstage!” — was a good finisher.

Opera Prelude is touring this summer with London-based Opera Holloway. Mozart’s comedy Cosi Fan Tutte comes to Henley on Friday, September 15. For full details and to book, visit

Mandy Beard

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