Opera Gala ends “a wonderfully successful season” on a high note

Hastings Philharmonic Gala on Saturday June 16 2018 SUS-181206-112501001
Hastings Philharmonic Gala on Saturday June 16 2018 SUS-181206-112501001

With the England team victory there was much to celebrate that evening, and all the more encouraging then that Hastings Philharmonic was coming to the end of a wonderfully successful season.

If they were letting their hair down a little it was rarely at the expense of the music which came across with bold authority throughout.

The first sung items – after an intriguing overture from Francis Rayner – were from Guestling Bradshaw School Choir. If there was more enthusiasm than clarity, they gave us an impressively complex rendition of Britten’s Old Abram Brown, and a heartfelt This Is Me.

Turning to opera, the extracts were essentially based on large choral numbers, though even Hastings Philharmonic Choir would have difficult matching Aida in Verona. In the event the balance proved to be very strong and the male voices cut through with aplomb in the Verdi choruses.

Marcio da Silva regularly manages to disarm us, and on this occasion it was in Te Deum from Tosca. Expecting the bass to sing Scarpia, I was not alone to gasp when Marcio turned to us and sang, at his most malevolent, the viciously corrupt lines from Scarpia before he turns to pray with the chorus. I suspect the chorus may have been as taken aback as we were, for they lost their entry, but Marcio was able to recover the timing with ease and the final bars radiated as they should.

The three soloists brought very different accomplishments. Turkish bass Vedat Dalgiran gave us an impressive Sorastro and Boris, and Il Lacerato Spirito from Simone Boccanegra. Tenor Leonel Pinheiro has a strong beat to his voice but his heroic enthusiasm in Nessun Dorma coupled with a magnificent Vincero at the end, carried all before him. Soprano Lin Westcott seems to go from strength to strength, giving us a lyrical reading of the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana and a gently moving Vilja.

Francis Rayner accompanied throughout from the piano, joined by Debbie Warren on keyboard. If this produced some interesting effects, it was particularly helpful in the many religious items. It has been a splendid year and the plans for 2018-19 look equally encouraging. By Brian Hick.