I went to hear a concert of the City of London Sinfonia because it advertized that it featured the "Holland Park Prima Donna," a French soprano named Anne-Sophie Duprels. She is a big star in the small pond of Opera Holland Park which I presume is the summer gig of the City of London Sinfonia.
She is a very romantic and emotional singer whose talents perfectly suited Catalani's "Ebben? ne andro lontana" from La Wally, the aria made famous in the movie Diva. She gestures romantically and charms us. I was left wanting more of this style of aria. The program tells us she will be singing Marguerite in Faust for Opera New Zealand in the future, so perhaps Sarah will give us a report.
Her voice and style did not precisely suit Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs, but a perfect performance of these pieces is seldom achieved. Would we want to wait for the perfect performance? No, we would not. She was excellent in the ecstatic elements, in the soaring, ecstatic phrases that make these pieces the glorious things that they are. Can they even be compared to other pieces by Strauss? The irrational soaring phrases are unique in vocal literature. But the same singer must achieve a more somber effect with the middle of her voice in the final "Im Abendrot", and it was here that she fell short. That's short of absolute perfection. She brought many pleasures to her performance, a French outpouring lacking only a bit of German inwardness.
I was set to pondering Strauss' old age. What if he had been shot in the war as Anton Webern was? Then these songs would never have existed. When the words speak of "wandermuede" [travel weary], we know that it is Strauss himself speaking. These songs are for the joy of composing, for the pure unadulterated passion for the female singing voice. If you don't know them, find out. Elisabeth. Kiri.
It was otherwise an interesting concert with several pieces from operas: Fedora, Manon Lescaut, Der Freischuetz. Peter Robinson, the conductor, went with his strengths.