Midsummer Opera took to the stage of St John’s Waterloo for a vivacious performance of Verdi’s tragic Un ballo in maschera, celebrating its 30th Anniversary Season. Under the baton of David Roblou, this evening's performance exuded passion and dedication with all performers joining forces for the love of art.

Catrine Kirkman (Oscar) © Michael John White
Catrine Kirkman (Oscar)
© Michael John White
The Symphony Orchestra of Midsummer Opera performed the Prelude with moving swells of sounds and a rich timbre was maintained throughout interspersed musical interludes. Roblou conducted the orchestra from behind the stage. Without monitors, the chorus and some soloists had difficulties with entries and timing to the extent that it seemed like the orchestra and chorus were in contention for first place at the double bar line in parts.

John Upperton, as Chorus Master and Riccardo, led the ensemble with a strong voice and beautiful lyricism, in addition to a well-thought-out persona for the kind yet forlorn lover. Joanna Gable’s Ulrica exuded confidence whilst producing luscious low sonorities throughout her Act I fortune telling. Vocally, Jane Streeton’s performance as Amelia was expressive, singing through the challenging soprano line with vibrancy and bringing out moments of heightened distress. It is shame that the part was not well acted; the look of worry was present from beginning to end with no softening of expression whilst confessing her love for Riccardo in their duet nor while begging to see her son in “Morrò , ma prima in grazia”. Andrew Mayor played a highly unsuspecting Renato who made the change from loyal friend to sinister mafioso smoothly and came into his own in his Act III aria “Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima”. Mayor grew in strength and volume, all the while maintaining a fluid line and embracing the higher notes sensitively as he vacillated between killing his wife or Riccardo. Catrine Kirkman, as the laddish pageboy Oscar, stole the show with creative costuming, extreme vanity and a playful arrogance, particularly while taunting Renato in the Act III aria, “Saper vorreste”. Kirkman interacted with each cast member at the ball with natural flare, her voice audible through full company chorus.

Stage Director Lynne McAdam made full use of the petite church, with many a grand entrance being made from behind the audience. The opening scene was a powerful image of suit clad henchmen approaching the stage in a pack to plot revenge against Riccardo. The costuming for the opera was realistic with men in work suits and women wrapped up warmly as they surrounded Ulrica’s cavern. Upperton seemed completely at home dressed in comfortable fisherman’s clothing and Oscar alternated between suits with wide ties and a garish woollen vest and cap. It was slightly odd that the cast was not entirely masked at their ballo in maschera, however, the feather emblazoned masks were beautiful and the chorus acted the ball scene with zeal and lots of acting referencing the fabulous décor of the ballroom.

The quality of the soloists joining the animated chorus made for a spectacular end to this dramatic opera.