Recital of songs/ arias by Britten/ Bellini/ Donizetti/ Schubert/ Debussy

Soumaya Keynes
Soumaya Keynes

Louise Kemeny brings a level of intellect and thoughtfulness to sung texts which is probably unique among young singers. She has to her name both a Masters degree in renaissance literature, and a scholarly article about newly-installed Oxford Poetry Professor Geoffrey Hill.

Her Melisande with the Cambridge University Opera Society earlier this year was a complete and totally convincing portrayal of a hugely complex character. Kemeny was able to balance Melisande's vulnerability with a knowing sexual allure. But it was also a vocally triumphant performance. Kemeny has an astonishingly lithe and agile soprano voice, which is a constant thrill to hear.

The high points of her first, 45-minute, London recital, at the Foundling Hospital today were the final songs, the Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse of Debussy. Au Clair de Lune was deliciously floaty. The jumps up into head-voice and the trills in Pierrot were dispatched spectacularly, and with a nonchalant smile. Falling perfumed stars of Mallarme's Apparition were captured magically. Earlier items in the programme, such as Donizetti's Neapolitan song La Conocchia were also delightful. It was all the more impressive an achievement because the accompanist Rupert Compston had been a last minute replacement, and had sight-read virtually the whole programme.

If one had to quibble, then in the opening set, Britten/ Auden's "On this Island," and before the voice had really settled, an occasional steely edge to the sound emerged. The voice could also at times be slightly too powerful for the small scale of the Foundling Hospital gallery. I could also have done with fewer breaths and longer lines in Schubert's Ganymed.

But let nothing detract from the pure joy and the elemental excitement of hearing a wonderful young voice, combined with mesmerizingly thoughtful interpretative insights, and phrasing to die for. Remember the name.