Rocío Ignacio soprano, Jorge de León tenor, Mariano Rives piano. Sorozábal "En un país de fabula", "No puede ser", "Todos lo saben" (La tabernera del puerto); Vives "Canción del ruiseñor", "Por el humo se sabe", "Le can a oír cállese" (Doña Francisquita); Bizet "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (Carmen); Thomas "Adieu, dit-il, ayez foi!" (Hamlet); Donizetti "Tombe degl'avi miei", "Il dolce suono", "Lucia perdona" (Lucia di Lammermoor); Encore - Penella "¡Sí! Torero quiero sé" (El gato montés)
Ian Rosenblatt's enterprise in sponsoring seasons of vocal recitals at St John's has brought several exhilarating breaths of Spanish fresh air to Westminster. For the latest it was gratifying to have the opportunity to hear two up-and-coming singers who could well be stars of the future.
The Tenerife tenor Jorge de León is already in his mid-thirties, but it was as recently as 2004 that he won several prizes in the prestigious Julian Gayarre International Singing Contest in Pamplona. He made an immediate impact with the strong, passionate delivery of his opening "No puede ser", and his heart-on-sleeve manner continued to impress into Bizet's "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" and remainder of the operatic second half. If the lighter shades we might have looked for in the Bizet aria and the Vives romanza "Por el humo se sabe" were not so immediately in evidence, de León's warm romantic aura and ardency of attack bode well for his appearances in Doña Francisquita in Málaga later in April 2006 and in La tabernera del Puerto at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in May.
The Seville-born coloratura soprano partner Rocío Ignacio sings with him in that forthcoming Doña Francisquita. For her the St John's recital was rather more the proverbial "game of two halves". It was perhaps a tough ask for her to be pitched cold into "En un país de fabula" before a foreign audience, and she seemed ill at ease through most the zarzuela half of the programme. The body of sound was there, but her sometimes scooped high notes could be a strain for the listener as much as, seemingly, for her. Then, in the operatic second half, the miracle happened. She began with Ophelia's melancholy aria from the garden scene of act 2 of Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, in which she is due to appear soon in several Spanish cities. It gave her the opportunity to dwell for a while in the warmth and richness of lower range of her voice, after which the voice opened out as she soared gloriously to the very top of the range and displayed effortless coloratura vocalising. The mad scene and Act 1 duet from Lucia di Lammermoor served to confirm a voice with variety of dramatic expression allied to an endearing pertness and warm personality.
In the eagerly demanded encore everything then came together for zarzuela lovers in the big duet from El gato montés, confirming that we may look forward to the future progress of both singers with confidence. Mariano Rives was, throughout, a sympathetic accompanist.
© Andrew Lamb 2006