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Baroque Recital - 11th October

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 After the Bel Canto recital of 4th October, the audience's expectations were raised significantly for this recital of Baroque Opera. The programme for this Baroque evening had a different scent, and the article written by James Craven to explain the perfumes of the period gave us an exotic hint to what lay ahead.

Every now and again, a new countertenor comes along to amaze us. The range required from a man's voice to sing countertenor ensures that it is a comparative rarity. When Alfred Deller, then James Bowman and Russell Oberlin entered the scene, they were instruments of, and instrumental to, the revival of early music which started in earnest in the 1970s. At this recital we were privileged to hear a young Canadian, who is presently based in Germany (Staatstheater Mainz) where he opens in the title role of Rinaldo (Handel) at the end of this month. He is Michael Taylor, and he has a rare talent.

Christina Petrou needed no introduction to many of the audience, as she sang the previous week, and was very well received. Her rich voice is also ideally suited to the Baroque repertoire, and this reviewer was much looking forward to hearing her again.

The voices were complemented by the playing of Toby Carr (Baroque Guitar, Theorbo) and Aileen Henry (Baroque Harp).  The theorbo is a sort of giant guitar with two sets of strings.

Two of the performers also talked about the music. Things have moved on considerably in the Church of England since St Paul laid down to the church in Corinth what was then the Jewish law and custom - "let the women keep silence in the churches" - a source of many ecclesiastical traditions, and no little current trouble. Michael Taylor was articulate and funny in his commentary on castrati as well as how composers of the Dowland period loved sadness (no connection). Similarly, Toby Carr wore his erudition lightly when he explained the ancestry of the modern guitar, and talked of the wealth of music waiting to be discovered, including the Corbetta pieces he played. Perhaps this could be a new facet of the Clapham Opera Festival in future?

We did not start with opera, but with Robert de Visée's suite for guitar and harp, where the audience were introduced to the rythms and harmonies of the period, and were stilled.

There is a risk in this review of the highlights consisting of the whole programme, but who could fail to be moved by Dowland's Flow my Tears sung by Christina Petrou, or the mid-east-influenced Possente Spirto from Orfeo by Monteverdi, sung by Michael Taylor? The duets Pur ti Miro from L'incoronazione di Poppea, the gorgeous Qual Labbro from Pallavicino, and Sound the Trumpet (Purcell) were audience favourites and were a tribute to Michael Taylor's and Christina Petrou's undoubted talent and professionalism as singers.

The audience demanded encores and the performers were generous, and it was a real pleasure for those who stayed to enjoy delicious hot sausage rolls from the newly-opened butcher next door, and the wines, to be able to talk with the young performers after the recital. It is a nice touch and makes the Clapham Opera Festival an intimate and friendly occasion. The next recital is at 3pm on 10th November (Operetta) followed by a performance of Donizzeti's Don Pasquale at 3pm on 17th November. For more information and tickets please go the Clapham Opera Festival website.