Review: Durham Opera Ensemble Cabaret

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Held in the Ustinov Room in Van Mildert College the Durham Opera Ensemble hosted a cabaret-style showcase that included musical performances from a number of different composers. The entire evening felt very professional and the choices in music offered a great range in tone, mood and story. Most songs were performed as solos and each performer boasts an impressive amount of talent and knowledge of the music and stylings of opera making this evening an impressive one.

Kicking off the night is Caleb Mock. Mock began by welcoming the audience and explaining how the evening would work. He then told us about the piece of music he was about to perform, which every performer throughout the night did prior to their performances too. This was an ingenious addition to the performance because each song was from an individual story and could have been taken from any moment of the story; the beginning, middle or end. These pre-explanations set the scene perfectly before each performance and it was easy to get drawn in with the context being known. Beginning with songs from Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, Mock starts the evening on a strong note. A powerful singer Mock easily builds crescendos and these powerful moments are impressive to watch. Ending the evening as well as starting it, his performance of ‘Anthem’ from the musical Chess, is a joy to watch as he captures character as well as delivering a vocally impressive performance.

A powerful singer Mock easily builds crescendos and these powerful moments are impressive to watch

Following Mock, took to the stage to perform ‘Come Away Death’ by Quilter. This song is performed by Festes the fool who sings in sadness about unrequited love. Malkin gives an outstanding performance and captures the pain of the fool, brilliantly setting the mood of the room. Next, performs two numbers, both very different in terms of tone, showcasing her versatility as a performer. The second of the two ‘The Jewel Song’ from Gounod’s Faust, is a joy to watch. Toone captures the excitement and charm of her character as she tries on beautiful bits of jewellery.

performs next and the standout element of her performance is her ability to act. Combining a beautiful smooth singing voice with impressive facial expression, Pollard tells a story through her performance and it pulls you in. She sings ‘Fair Robin I Love’ by Kirke Mechem, a comedic song in which a young girl is told how to deal with men, and Pollard subtly brings in these elements of comedy.

Following Pollard’s performance is Ruby Alexander. Alexander has such a beautiful voice and creates a story effortlessly with her ability to control volume, power and tone through her voice. She performs ‘Love is a Plaintive Song’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. Alexander’s vibrato is beautiful and her ability to reach the higher notes is strong. Her performance is a triumph and a joy to watch. then performs two songs. In both, she clearly showcases she is a powerful performer. She has a fantastic stage presence and captures the mood of her song through her stance. Botelho’s voice only matches her performing abilities. Injecting her performance with her energetic vocals, Botelho’s natural talent is showcased. To break up the solo performances there is a duet between Botelho and Sophie Horrocks. Singing ‘Sull’aria’ from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. The two capture a cheeky character dynamic between two women who are hatching a plan to outsmart the Countess’ husband. The duet offered some great range to the solo performances and it would have been nice to have more. At times the Cabaret felt a little repetitive due to the high number of soloists and including moments in which characters interact could have changed the pace.

Malkin gives an outstanding performance and captures the pain of the fool, brilliantly setting the mood of the room

Horrocks also performed as a soloist a song called ‘Torna di Tito a lato’, from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito. The stand-out element of Horrocks performance is her storytelling abilities. She changes her body movements to show character and it is impossible to be drawn away from the story unfolding. Mixed with her lively vocals, her performance is a treat to watch.

Overall the Durham Opera Ensemble’s Cabaret showcase is a brilliant production. With smooth transitions between numbers and clear explanations as to where the song is from and what the story is, it is easy to be absorbed into each performance. The ensemble is a powerful team and their performance is simply outstanding!

Image credit: Durham Opera Ensemble

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