Michael White’s classical news: ENO chorus; Don Pasquale; Alexander Karpayev; Jakub Jozef Orlinski

Thursday, 28th April — By Michael White

Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel in Don Pasquale. Photo: Clive Barda

THEY may not be the big draw in an opera – you won’t know their names or faces, and their job is generally to loiter in the background. But you’d miss them if they weren’t there; certain works invite them to command the stage; and what I’m talking about here are the members of the English National Opera chorus – who this Saturday, April 30, get the rare opportunity of being given their own show. It’s not at the Coliseum but along the street at St Martin in the Fields where they’ll sing concert repertoire that fits in with their English-language culture: things like Britten’s Choral Dances from Gloriana, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. The ENO chorus has always been a real powerhouse ensemble, injecting muscle into Coliseum stagings; but life hasn’t been easy for them in recent years, and they more than deserve this moment in the spotlight. Martyn Brabbins conducts. Expect a big, collective sing. stmartin-in-the-fields.org

An ageist comedy about the amorous delusions of an old man, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale makes uncomfortable viewing for anyone past their prime; but that said, it is funny. And the Royal Opera House staging by Damiano Michieletto was ecstatically received when it last played there in 2019, which is why it’s back for another run – with the title role shared between Lucio Gallo and Bryn Terfel, both of them masters of comic timing. Dates May 3-20. Booking roh.org.uk (with tickets from as little as £11 if you’re prepared to endure a bit of discomfort. Opera doesn’t have to be expensive!)

• You can only feel sorry for Russian artists in the UK who have no love for Putin’s regime but find it hard to escape the anger its atrocities draw. So don’t hold back from the British-based Russian trio, led by pianist Alexander Karpayev, who appear at Conway Hall this Sunday, May 1. They’re fine musicians, playing an attractive programme of Brahms, Bruch and Medtner – the eminent but exiled Russian composer who ended up living in Golders Green. Karpayev is a noted Medtner expert and a perfect guide for anybody unfamiliar with the great man’s output. conwayhall.org.uk

Meanwhile, thinking of Ukraine, the Royal Opera House has a special performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake on May 5 to raise money for relief work. That they’ve chosen the most celebrated of Russian ballets for this purpose is interesting: it sends the message loud and clear that this filthy war and the historic glories of Russian culture are different things, with Tchaikovsky no more speaking for Putin than Bach did for Hitler. roh.org.uk

• Something else hard to escape these days is the dazzling virtuosity of Polish countertenor Jakub Jozef Orlinski. Straight from starring in the Royal Opera’s Theodora, he has a new CD just out on Erato of obscure but lovely Polish vocal rep. And this Sunday, May 1, he’s at Wigmore Hall singing Purcell, Handel… and (you might have guessed) obscure but lovely Polish vocal rep. He’s glamorous, exciting, charismatic, a distinctly happening presence on the international circuit. Jettison all other May Day plans. wigmore-hall.org.uk

Related Articles