What better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon in Leeds than in Howard Assembly Room being serenaded by two brilliant sopranos. Daisy Brown and Fflur Wyn have been appearing in Opera North’s production of Orfeo ed Euridice, which I reviewed at the end of last month, so I was looking forward to seeing them in this more intimate space.
The space was made even more intimate by the revised layout of the room with tiered seating in the rear half but cabaret style tables at the front. Funny how the tables seemed to be quite full of wine glasses, well, that’s culture for you. I wasn’t as far away from the action as the photograph makes it seem, I had my camera on wide-angle which distorts the depth.
As the title of the concert would suggest, the songs had a female theme but weren’t all about making them the heroine. One was about a pushy mother who instils the ethos of ‘win at any price’ into her son, who goes on to become a loser. On reflection it was the mother who succeeded so I will keep mulling over that moral.
The programme was introduced by Assistant Head of Music, Anne Saunders, who also read a couple of poems and accompanied the singers on the piano. She either gave us a synopsis of the songs or invited the singers to do so, which was just as well as those which weren’t in English were in Italian, German, French, Welsh, or the most baffling of all, American!
The works spanned the centuries with pieces by Purcell, Mozart, Rossini, Bernstein and many others. There were a few I had heard before but also more obscure songs, including two Welsh pieces, one of which was written by the woman who taught Fflur Wyn’s mother to play the piano.
Left to right Daisy Brown, Fflur Wyn and Anne Saunders
The singing was flawless but what intrigued me was the contrast between the two women’s styles. Although both sopranos, Ms Wyn had a slightly richer tone whereas Ms Brown’s was crystal clear. When they duetted they raised the otherwise sublime to a whole new level. Their delivery seemed effortless, even though the room reverberated with the volume, which was done without electronic assistance. I remember watching the Three Tenors and waiting for one of them to explode, but these ladies hit the high notes, and the lower ones, without it seeming like hard work. I suppose that is men all over, turning everything into a drama while women just get on with it.
The other great thing about the performances was that they were just that – performances. Being opera singers, and most of the songs being of that genre, there was a fair bit of acting involved as they recreated the scene from which the aria was taken, or, in some cases, vamped it up, which was a delight.
All good things must come to an end, so it was back out into soggy New Briggate and home, but somehow the cold and damp didn’t seem so bad.
For more about Daisy Brown and Fflur Wyn please click here where there is a copy of the programme containing the playlist and biographies.
For all other events coming up at Howard Assembly Room it is https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/
Featured image provided by Howard Assembly Room, other photographs by Stan Graham