Above, left to right: Leonel Pinheiro (Don Jose), Sienna Homes (Micaela), Kathryn Turpin (Carmen) and Sam Ansloos (Escamillo)
In 2011 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas; last year Mozart’s The Magic Flute; last week the most ambitious project yet, a concert performance of Bizet’s Carmen, slipped in just before the exam season really kicks in.
The scale of this production was staggering, and testimony not only to the rich seam of talented young singers with which the School is currently blessed, but also to the quality of its orchestral players who tackled this long and complex score with a verve and sensitivity which often made it difficult to believe that one was listening to (or in this case playing in) a school orchestra.
Maestro John Moore, never one to take an easy route, keen to give as many as possible of the School’s singers experience of grand opera, involved no fewer than 12 pupils as soloists over the two performances, entailing of course, double the vocal coaching. Their performances were undoubtedly given a lift by the inspirational singing of the two professional soloists, Kathryn Turpin (Carmen), who teaches singing at the school, and Leonel Pinheiro, looking every inch the love-crazed Don Jose, whose superb Latin tenor is already in high demand.
Below, left to right: Connie Osborne, Emily Hay, John Moore, Ali Webb, Laurence Jeffcoate
Members of the Shrewsbury School Community Choir sang the choruses with professional aplomb, and the rapture of the audience’s applause from a full house on both nights, not to mention the relief on the conductor’s face (this reviewer was sitting in the trombone section), was testimony to the success of this very ambitious project.
Thanks also to so many others involved in bringing this production to life: singing teachers Jonathan May and Kathryn Turpin and assistant chorus master Alex Mason in particular. One wonders what next year will bring?