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Opera Up Close – Coffee Concert! | Review

In May 2020, finding that they could not perform ‘live’ owing to the first Lockdown, Opera Up Close devised two Coffee Concerts which were available online, in order to give young artistes some work and to provide some solace for those spending lot of time at home.

Opera Up Close - Coffee Concert!Fast forward nearly a year, and what feels like fifteen Lockdowns later, and the company have devised another two 30-minute entertainments, calling the first of these “Shakespeare re-shaped”.

This begins with the ringing tenor of Joseph Doody, who has a superb Top Bb in the opening duet from Verdi’s Falstaff and is able to act both with his face and with his voice, as is Claire Wild who shares the duet with him and then follows it with ‘the’ aria from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, proving that she has an agile coloratura and a voice that has a very attractive slight flutter. Goodness knows how she can sit cross-legged on a sofa and sing those high notes!

Next comes Gallop Apace from the play of the same name performed by Lara Steward in sign language – a translation is available for every item by clicking the appropriate icon. Someone had the imagination to record this with the camera looking through a window to where the Spring sun is shining, lifting the spirits.

Joseph Doody follows this with “To Sylvia” – so unusual to hear Schubert lieder sung in English these days.

Rodney Earl Clarke changes the mood with something else from Falstaff, Ford’s aria -sounding more than slightly annoyed!

Next comes Kat Rose-Martin, who gives us a short speech from Measure for Measure followed by what was for me the highlight of the concert, her own monologue “The Ballad of the Voiceless”, very amusing, so true and beautifully acted.

Kelvin Lim was the energetic pianist throughout.

I really enjoyed this half-hour: the emphasis was on communication with the imaginary audience, which must have been exceedingly difficult, but was successful.

The concert is available on the Opera Up Close website, as well as on YouTube until 13th May. It is FREE but a donation is requested.

There is another Coffee Concert in a couple of weeks time and I, for one, am very much looking forward to reviewing it.

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Opera composers have, for centuries, been inspired by The Bard’s plays. OperaUpClose traces some of these Shakespeare-inspired pieces in Shakespeare Re-Shaped: soprano Claire Wild and pianist Kelvin Lim will perform Juliet’s stunning ‘Je veux vivre’ from Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet; Claire and tenor Joseph Doody will sing Nanetta and Fenton’s mesmerising duet from Verdi’s Falstaff (based on The Merry Wives of Windsor); and baritone Rodney Clarke will perform Ford’s troubling ‘jealous’ aria, also of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Elsewhere, deaf actor Lara Steward will perform Juliet’s passionate ‘Gallop apace’ monologue in British Sign Language, and writer and actor Kat Rose-Martin will perform Isabella’s ‘Could great men thunder’ from Measure for Measure and her own newly written response piece to Shakespeare and Verdi’s Ford. The cast will then sing us into what we hope will be a brighter springtime, with Finzi’s heartwarming ‘It was a lover and his lass’.


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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