A married couple in performance can be a thrilling prospect, particularly in recital; the natural chemistry and inate understanding can enhance a performance exponentially. The problem arises when one half drops out at sudden notice, as happened at the latest Rosenblatt recital for Ekaterina Siurina and her husband Charles Castronovo, who was reportedly worn out by rehearsing the part of Edgardo in the Royal Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor and therefore withdrew.

Ekaterina Siurina and Luis Gomes © Jonathan Rose
Ekaterina Siurina and Luis Gomes
© Jonathan Rose
Rosenblatt managed to draft in the young tenor Luis Gomes, a graduate of the ROH's Jette Parker Young Artist Programme, to replace Castronovo and I doubt there were many in the audience who felt short-changed by the end of the evening. Gomes learnt the majority of the advertised programme – we lost a couple of Liszt songs, extracts from Pearl Fishers and the Rachmaninov songs were supplemented – and was not reliant on the score. Gomes took a very simple approach to performance, and by lack of affectation became all the more affecting and refined. He is one of those uncommon tenors who is exceptionally interesting at the lower register of his voice, which is strong and mellow, particularly on display in three songs by Tosti. At times, his diction seemed ever so slightly blurred, but that may have been through simple unfamiliarity than lack of technique. High notes were held and dispatched with ease, particularly in the always popular chunk from La bohème, “Che gelida manina... O soave fanciulla”, and both in this and the Tosti songs, he displayed a fine diminuendo. Fine phrasing was clear throughout and I was impressed with how much depth he was able to bring consistently to the programme without a great deal of familiarity. Rachmaninov's song "Zdes' khorosho" was particularly noticeable in this respect and he should be commended for his ease with the Russian, which is by no means the easiest language to sing clearly with little preparation. In short, we witnessed a level of consummate artistry which is unexpected in so young a singer. Slightly greater projection will be needed for a superlative  career in the larger opera houses, but a very fine career awaits him in recitals. We will be seeing a great deal more of him in years to come.

Siurina brought a different artistry to the platform; less nuanced in many respects, but just as direct. Siurina's voice, at least in the confines of the Wigmore Hall, is a huge instrument and extremely forceful. Beginning with the lovely Cherry Duet “Suzel, buon dì" from L'amico Fritz, she demonstrated a natural affinity with verismo which was reinforced in the scene from Bohème; a lyrical whimsy and immediacy had an strong impact. In the very different repertoire of songs from the bel canto composers, she was entirely secure. In Rossini's salon song La pastorella dell'Alpi, Siurina gave a dazzling display of coloratura, entirely flexible and with firm high notes that were never colourless, though her voice was just a little too heavy for the song for my taste. That said, she fully inhabited the beguiling shepherdess of the piece and brought genuine character to all three of the short songs. In duets, her voice tended to overwhelm Gomes' slightly, but she reined it in for the final duet of the programme, the lovely "Va! je t'ai pardonné" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. Their encore, the last minute of "O soave fanciulla" was a moving end to the evening.

At the piano, Iain Burnside delivered his customary excellence and his Rachmaninov was virtuosic in its own right, contributing to an evening that will not quickly be forgotten.

****1