Naomi Johns (soprano)/Caitlin Cassidy (mezzo soprano)/David Wickham (piano)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
It is always a very special moment for critics when a remarkable new musical talent is encountered. And this was certainly the case on listening to Caitlin Cassidy who used her mezzo soprano voice to often thrilling effect in arias by Rossini and Massenet.
Her account of the Letter Scene from the latter’s Werther brought me to the edge of my seat. Its dramatic essence was evoked to the nth degree. Splendidly mellow low notes and faultless phrasing informed Rossini’s Cruda sorte as was the case in the celebrated Barcarolle by Offenbach to which soprano Naomi Johns brought a finely enunciated line.
I particularly liked Johns’ account of Debussy’s Beau Soir; its haunting essence was faultlessly conveyed – and there was pleasing intensity of expression in the same composer’s Apparition.
Johns also gave us a splendid account of Bernstein’s delightfully engaging cycle I Hate Music; its inherent humour was evoked to commendable effect. And she was no less persuasive in arias by Puccini and Leoncavallo.
Providing a spoken linking commentary in a recital of this nature is an aspect of performance that is not always given as much thought and consideration as are necessary. If words are chosen and presented with care, it can significantly enhance the overall impact of presentation. By the same token, a less-than-thoroughly fluent presentation can be a drawback as was the case in some of Johns’ commentary.
Throughout the recital, the singers had the inestimable good fortune of accompaniments by David Wickham. In his hands, the Fazioli grand piano on which he played responded to his ministrations in the most meaningful and memorable of ways. Wickham’s many pianistic contributions have enhanced the music life of this city to a splendid degree.
This recital had the stamp of distinction. It was certainly one of the most satisfying presentations I have experienced this year.