As The Royal Opera didn’t provide advance notification of the programme, attendance at this annual event was a gesture of faith that the current crop of Jette Parker Young Artists could spin any raw material into opera gold. Enough punters turned out on a sunny Sunday afternoon to prove them right, and the applause was fulsome.

<i>Le nozze di Figaro</i>: Michael Mofidian (Figaro) and Yaritza Véliz (Susanna) © ROH 2019 | Clive Barda
Le nozze di Figaro: Michael Mofidian (Figaro) and Yaritza Véliz (Susanna)
© ROH 2019 | Clive Barda

Thomas Payne’s conducting of the overture to Le nozze di Figaro, spry of line and fleet of foot, seemed more to the liking of the ROH Orchestra (and certainly to mine) than John Eliot Gardiner’s battering-ram account in the company’s current revival of the full opera. Ironically, David McVicar’s production furnished the settings for all six of the afternoon's excerpts, with slabs of Tanya McCallin’s tall, panelled set mix-and-matched by the talented JPYA director Noa Naamat to suit the drama at hand. Thus one high window sufficed for Yaritza Véliz and Michael Mofidian to enact Mozart’s opening duo as Susanna and Figaro, while the truck that normally represents Figaro’s private quarters served instead as Rigoletto’s house for the abduction scene in Verdi’s eponymous opera. It all sat remarkably well.

<i>Samson et Dalila</i>: Aigul Akhmetshina (Dalila) © ROH 2019 | Clive Barda
Samson et Dalila: Aigul Akhmetshina (Dalila)
© ROH 2019 | Clive Barda

Since this was a showcase and not a singing competition it would be fatuous to pick winners and losers from such a strong field, but some individuals demand to be singled out. It will come as no surprise to Royal Opera watchers that Aigul Akhmetshina again sent jaws crashing into chests, not as Carmen this time but as Dalila in a welcome scene from Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns. Her dramatic entry into “Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse!” made the uninitiated sit bolt upright and its conclusion earned a sackful of bravas. The young Russian is already the finished article: a dramatic mezzo-soprano of the first order.

<i>Orfeo ed Euridice</i>: Jacquelyn Stucker (Euridice) and Patrick Terry (Orfeo) © ROH 2019 | Clive Barda
Orfeo ed Euridice: Jacquelyn Stucker (Euridice) and Patrick Terry (Orfeo)
© ROH 2019 | Clive Barda

Countertenor Patrick Terry sang a stylish Orfeo from Gluck’s opera in the company of Jacquelyn Stucker, last year’s Glyndebourne Opera Cup runner-up, who was in outstanding voice as Euridice. Curiously, the American soprano was decked out like most people’s idea of the heroine in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, complete with long, straggly hair, whereas when Hongni Wu subsequently appeared in the Tower Scene from that very opera she was dressed and bewigged, behaved and sang more like a Puccini diva than the enigmatic spirit of Maeterlinck’s imaginings.

<i>Pelléas et Mélisande</i>: Hongni Wu (Mélisande) and Dominic Sedgwick (Pelléas) © ROH 2019 | Clive Barda
Pelléas et Mélisande: Hongni Wu (Mélisande) and Dominic Sedgwick (Pelléas)
© ROH 2019 | Clive Barda

Baritone Dominic Sedgwick, who catches the eye and ear in everything he essays these days, pulled out two ripe plums from the bran tub of possibilities and delivered them both to an exciting standard. His Pelléas was precisely idiomatic; his Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (the post-thunderstorm trio along with Wu’s Rosina and tenor Thando Mjandana’s exemplary Almaviva) a comic tonic. Both accounts made one long to see him in the full roles.

<i>Il barbiere di Siviglia</i>; Dominic Sedgwick (Figaro) © ROH 2019 | Clive Barda
Il barbiere di Siviglia; Dominic Sedgwick (Figaro)
© ROH 2019 | Clive Barda

Conductor James Hendry brought this charming afternoon of summertime entertainment to a dizzy climax with a snappy rendition from the whole company of “Tutto nel mondo”, the fugal finale from Verdi’s Falstaff. The ensemble singing and Naamat’s good-hearted staging sent the audience home as uplifted as if they’d just glugged a bellyful of Pimm’s. But without the hangover.

****1