Riverside Theatre, October 17
Singing in public can still be scary, even for those whose nerves are steeled by countless shows. So imagine going for months without performing, and then walking back out on to that stage. Beyond hitting the notes and remembering the arrangements, there’s something akin to match-fitness that’s been missing.
So hats off to soprano Julie Lea Goodwin and tenor Daniel Belle, because singing opera is a devilish pursuit at the best of times, let alone when having to clamber back from a gaping chasm in your career. And this being the first of Riverside’s streamed concerts to have a live audience, you also sensed that for many people this was their first foray back into a dark room shared with (socially-distanced) strangers.
The singers were miked up, but where I was sitting it seemed more on the level of reinforcement than amplification (as well as being for the live stream), and one almost felt that not just the long-deprived audience, but the walls themselves were thrilling to the sound of those voices.
Goodwin and Belle were joined by the ubiquitous Guy Noble who, as well as playing piano, sang (to the tune of When I Was a Lad) a very witty ditty about the COVID trials and political tribulations of 2020, with the words penned by Belle. Otherwise the repertoire centred on Italian opera, with some Bizet, Broadway and popular song thrown in.
The opening duet on Tonight and Belle’s subsequent Some Enchanted Evening felt a bit like singing by numbers, before they began to hit their stride. Goodwin was as playful as a kitten delivering Musetta’s Quando m’en vo from La Boheme, although the version of that work’s Act One love duet failed to spear us fully on the implicit ecstasy. Belle delivered a polished E la solita storia del pastore (L’arlesiana), even if he again missed that last inch of urgency, and while Goodwin’s natural acting shone through on O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi), her top notes were slightly brittle.
By contrast her vivacious rendering of I Could Have Danced All Night was flawless, and the pair’s voices blended beautifully on If I Loved You (Carousel), before a rousing Brindisi (La Traviata), in which Noble invited us to hum along, communal singing currently being a thing of the past.