Thursday 3 May 2012

OperaBabes @ Cadogan Hall

Ten years ago, two opera singers were found busking in Covent Garden.  Now, Rebecca Knight and Karen England are the OperaBabes, with a number one album and numerous international performances under their belts.  To celebrate the release of their latest album, 'Silent Noon' (pictured), the babes performed some choice selections in the opulent surroundings of Cadogan Hall.

An impressive opening was made by Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly D'Alba, accompanied by Christian Chamorel.  The unaccompanied introduction of Ravel's 'Tzigane, rapsodie de concert' was attacked with technical aplomb and the French theme continued with an intense rendition of Franck's 'Sonata for violin and piano in A major' - the first movement's passionate and gushing melodic lines contrasting with the second movement's volcanic rhythms.  An arrangement of songs from Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess' followed, which suited the lighthearted feel of the evening at large.  Lastly was Lutoslawski's 'Partita for violin and piano', a difficult piece for the audience but no less enjoyable.  D'Alba's rich vibrato is a notable element of her playing and her technical ease shone through amongst the offbeat choice of programme.

The babes' latest album is a collection of English songs sung to piano accompaniment.  It was a selection of these that began their half of the concert, simply arranged and performed.  Vaughan Williams's Silent Noon was a particular highlight and, as a favourite of the two singers, is the title of the album.  However, the album at large does risk becoming too repetitive, so luckily some opera numbers were also performed, from Delibe's 'Flower Duet' from Lakme, to some Mozart duets and Rossini's 'Cat Duet'.  Whilst these did offer some variation, these pieces were clearly chosen for their gentle niceness rather than real contrast, only showing up the babes' limited repertoire.

Karen England's mezzo was rich and confident, whilst Rebecca Knight's soprano was a little shrill and relied too heavily on vibrato.  Together, their voices blended beautifully with some tight harmonies and the night was clearly strictly rehearsed - including the rather forced banter between numbers.  The OperaBabes personify easy listening, with some perfectly pleasant, opera-lite tunes that are sure to rise to the top of the classical charts once more.  Yet their music is bland and, ironically enough for their name, lacks the melodrama associated with operatic performance.


Listen:  'Silent Noon' is available now.  D'Alba's latest CD 'French Impressions' is also available now.