Sunday night brought the intriguing mix of Chelsea Opera Group, the amateur chorus and orchestra which hires professional conductors and singers, to the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre. The occasion was a concert performance of Verdi's La Traviata, with the world renowned Romanian opera singer Nelly Miricioiu, the rising star Italian conductor Gianluca Marcianò and tenor Cosmin Ifrin making his UK debut. With some caveats, the evening was an overwhelming success with the audience springing to their feet at its close to reinforce their enthusiasm for the performance. Nelly Miricioiu is a passionate supporter of Chelsea Opera Group which over the past 10 years has given her the opportunity to sing some very appropriate but little performed repertoire.

On this occasion it appeared it was a gesture of its gratitude to give this generous singer the opportunity to revisit a role that she made her own on world stages. Unwilling to let her admirers down at the last minute she battled with a serious head cold and had to substitute vocal beauty with technical ability in order to sing through her disability. To support her diminished vocal prowess she brought more dramatic action into the equation than is usual in a concert performance.

Her paramour Alfredo, sung by the young Romanian Cosmin Ifrin, brought the privilege of Chelsea Opera Group’s supporters seeing a super new tenor before the elite London opera house regulars. He had no difficulty with the high notes and his voice rang out with beauty and clarity. Alan Opie made an affecting Giorgio Germont and Anne-Marie Gibbons an excellent Flora. Gianluca Marcianò is an exciting young Italian conductor making his mark here in the UK, returning to Chelsea Opera Group after a much acclaimed debut with them in November 2008 and already booked for 2011. The sound he brought to the opera was truly Italianate. He kept the pace fast whilst still maintaining delicacy and evoking emotion. The orchestra had the quality and assurance of a professional band and the conductor, in collaboration with the chorus master (or mistress in this case) Deborah Miles-Johnson, brought out a quality in the chorus that I have not heard for a very long time. So, the unexpected mix created a wonderful confection!

Jill Segal 24th February 2010