Opera North's season of one act treasures, Little Greats, opened on Saturday 16 September with a double bill of Pagliacci and L'enfant et les sortilèges featuring no fewer than five Rayfield Allied artists: conductor Tobias Ringborg, tenor Peter Auty as Canio, baritone Phillip Rhodes as Silvio, and Fflur Wyn and Katie Bray in a number of roles in L'enfant et les sortilèges. Critics are already agreed that these two productions "augur well" (The Guardian) for "a season that could be even better than the previous Little Greats festival back in 2004" (The Arts Desk). The Little Greats season also includes appearances from these artists in Cavalleria Rusticana (conducted by Tobias Ringborg with Philip Rhodes as Alfio, Katie Bray as Lola), Trouble in Tahiti (conducted by Tobias Ringborg with Fflur Wyn), and Osud (Peter Auty as Dr Suda).
"Tobias Ringborg conducted with sensitivity, following the emotional surges expertly." (Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
"Ringborg conducts with the fierce brash energy that this crude score requires." (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph ****)
"It is wonderfully conducted by Tobias Ringborg, too." (Tim Ashley, The Guardian ****)
"Leoncavallo’s greasepaint-and-adultery thriller Pagliacci, conducted with verve by Tobias Ringborg." (Richard Morrison, The Times)
"Tobias Ringborg ... found plenty of colours in the score." (Michael Tanner, The Spectator)
"With an all-round excellent cast, Peter Auty’s Canio stood out, dramatically frightening and with his superb voice on its best form. But Canio is given the most chances; the build-up from suspicion to conviction to crime passionnel is plotted by the composer-librettist with skill, the performer of the role just having to be careful that he doesn’t feel too much too soon. Jon Vickers set the standard here, but Auty can be ranked alongside him." (Michael Tanner, The Spectator)
"Auty gives a great performance, singing with subtlety yet formidably conveying Canio’s psychological disintegration." (Tim Ashley, The Guardian ****)
"Peter Auty plays Canio with focussed, obsessive intensity, his timbre equal to the demands of Leoncavallo’s fin-de-siècle lushness." (Robert Beale, The Arts Desk *****)
"The leader of the Commedia dell'arte troupe, Canio (Peter Auty), first seen swanning in to a convincingly cluttered rehearsal space signing record sleeves, soon makes his violent paranoia apparent, a standard operatic ingredient, of course, which comes with well-known dangers for any director, in this case Charles Edwards. Psychotic episodes, especially those driven by alcohol, both real and enacted, can have a raw force that gets out of hand, which is what happens when he tears off his clown mask to tell his wife he is not acting, then stabs her and her lover to death. This ending is devastatingly effective, but well-controlled, like Canio’s aria "Vesti la giubba": Auty revealed himself as a fine spinto tenor, deeply moving yet balanced, with just a tiny hint of sobbing." (Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
"[Auty's] robust tenor stirringly renders the breast-beating of Vesti la giubba." (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph ****)
"Phillip Rhodes refrains from any digs at power-crazed maestri in his acting – if anything, he’s the straight guy here, just plain lustful – and balances his colleagues in vocal power." (Robert Beale, The Arts Desk *****)
"Richard Burkhard, Elin Pritchard and Philip Rhodes are both vocally and dramatically convincing as Tonio, Nedda and Silvio…" (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph ****)
"New Zealand baritone Philip Rhodes was really impressive as her pianist lover Silvio, singing with a rich tenderness." (Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
"Baritone Phillip Rhodes, an outstanding Alfio, conveyed an appropriate harshness as the equivalent of a small-time Mafioso, and had plenty of stage business around the vehicle. His scene during the Intermezzo was particularly moving. He smashed a chair, then wept after hearing about his wife Lola’s infidelity, ending up sitting in the driver’s seat."
(Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
“Fflur Wyn is a touching Princess from the storybook which the child has torn up” (Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
“A gifted cast round up the other roles – Fflur Wyn [and] Katie Bray ... – the sort of team only an ensemble enterprise of this kind could provide for Ravel’s 45-minute fantasy.” (Robert Beale, The Arts Desk *****)
"A star-studded cast, including ... Katie Bray and Quirijn de Lang’s cats, gives witty support throughout. Spellbinding." (Martin Dreyer, York Press)
"Mezzo Katie Bray's lovely dark tones fitted the part of Lola" (Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack ****)
"vividly characterised, multitasking performances from John Graham-Hall, Ann Taylor, Fflur Wyn and Katie Bray." (Richard Morrison, The Times)
"Quirjin de Lang and Katie Bray make a stunning pair of cats" (Tim Ashley, The Guardian ****)
Photos: Tristram Kenton.