FringeReview UK 2018
Soprano Tamzin Barnett and pianist Nancy Cooley give a recital – at Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton – of Handel, Mozart, Schubert Wolf, Ravel’s Schéhérazade, Quilter, Bridge and Valverde.
Tamzin Barnett’s still a graduate student, but already a soprano with a formidable technique, real presence and acting skills that make this debut a delight. Ably supported by Nancy Cooley’s piano, which played a starring role in the Ravel, Barnett provided a tipartite recital, German, French, with a little British and a Spanish firecracker to end.
Handel’s Acis and Galatea, two lovers overshadowed by a lusting giant, brought forth ‘As when the dove’ a lamenting denial of Galatea as she mourns the crushed Acis. Barnett knows what she’s about and this soaring containment in repertoire now rare (it tends to get pushed to early music) seems fresher here.
It was the Mozart that showed Barnett could act. It’s Zerlina’s ‘Batti batti’ pleading with her fiancé to ebat her if he wants, only forgive her for being nearly seduced by Don Giovanni. Despite this rather dodgy plea, Barnett acted this with an attack and physicality the Handel didn’t prepare us for. This was first class story-telling with expressive but never over-used arms and voice.
Schubert’s ‘Die Forelle’ – The Trout – went along attractively with Barnett’s pure vibrato-less voice, Cooley enjoying the rippling effects with an aquatic friskiness. It was followed by something les ubiquitous, Hugo Wolf’s tale of a man seeing his young wife flirting with a much older judge, whilst pretending to sleep. This is from Wolf’s Spanish Songbook of 1892, ‘In dem schatten meiner locken’ which Shakespeare might almost have translated: ‘when most I wink, then do mine eyes best see’. Barnett gets the dark paly of this, and manages to lighten some of the chromatic post-Wagnerisms too. It’s one I wanted to hear again.
The central exalted work was Ravel’s Schéhérazade, his 1903 three-song panel of exalted longing and chiaroscuro of desire. They’re settings by the marvellously decadent Tristan Klingsor. Everything’s hot, sun-drenched landscapes with scantily clad people looking out of windows at other stripped people.
‘Asie’ is the longest with a fantastic swirl of a piano solo at the end – it’s overwhelming in the orchestral version. It’s all about wanting to see Asia and China in E flat minor, so remote in key too. But its longing is more powerful, and Barnett related it like a personal credo. She’s rapt and just as she masters German, masters French with an idiomatic tang she seems unequivocally at home with.