Serpent and Fire
Il Giardino Armonico, Anna Prohaska
Royal Albert Hall. 2 August 2018
Serpent and Fire is probably a better concert title that ‘Two Suicidal African Queens’, but Anna Prohaska’s exploration of the musical characters of Dido and Cleopatra certainly delved the emotional issues that caused both Queen’s demise. Despite her plea to ‘forget my fate’, Dido’s end is etched in all music-lovers minds, and it closed this late-night BBC Prom. Purcell’s Ah! Belinda providing the opening, introducing the Anna Prohaska’s beautifully clear and pure voice, and her use of the gentlest of vocal inflexions, quite correctly, as an ornament, for which I will readily forgive her the occasional tendency to slightly slur notes together. She later joined the very rare catalogue of early music singers who can produce a proper trill, rather than just relying on vibrato. The curious pauses in Ah! Belinda were the first of a number of directorial oddities provided by conductor Giovanni Antonini.
Anna Prohaska & Arcangelo
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 2 August 2015
The latest in the series of candle-lit concerts in the Jacobean Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on London’s South Bank featured soprano Anna Prohaska with Arcangelo and a programme based around the theme of melancholy, under the title of ‘Lachrimae’. Devised by Anna Prohaska, the pieces chosen reflected the wide range of compositional possibilities used by early Baroque composers from England and Italy. The music ranged from intimate Purcell settings to dramatic Italian opera scenes.
I first reviewed Anna Prohaska in 2012 Wigmore Hall concert (broadcast live on Radio 3) and noted that “… If I had read Anna Prohaska’s CV (full of names like the Berliner Philharmoniker, Weiner Philharmoniker, Deutsche Staatoper Berlin) before I heard her sing, I would have wondered why on earth the Academy of Ancient Music had booked her”. But, for the ‘early music’ vocal scene, she was a real find. I don’t know what, or how, she sings with these orchestral big boys, but her beautifully eloquent and pure voice is just the thing for this repertoire, as was her presentation. She is of impeccable musical stock – her father and mother were an opera director and singer, her grandfather and great-grandfather a conductor and composer respectively. She has a very attractively un-diva like and engaging stage manner, giving the impression of singing with us, rather that at us, and involving us in the emotional turmoil of the various pieces. She has an exquisitely warm timbre with a slightly mezzo-ish tinge and demonstrated a thorough understanding of her chosen repertoire (and its wide range of emotions), with fine da capo elaborations and the rare ability to trill properly. Her use of rhetoric to accent emotive moments was spot on, as was her heart-wrenching cries of “Gabriel” in Purcell’s ‘Tell me, some pitying angel’ – one of those moments when silence can be more intense than music. Continue reading