Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

The Royal Treatment

March 24, 2009

Kate Royal, Philip Smith, and James Wilt
Photo: mine 2009

It’s nice to be back home - especially after a not so barn-burning weekend of opera in New York. What’s even nicer is to be welcomed back by a talent as impressive as Kate Royal’s. Actually, she saw me off as well on Tuesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall where she performed as part of the L.A. Philharmonic’s chamber music series. She sang three Handel arias, two with accompaniment from James Wilt on trumpet and Philip Smith on the large Frank Gehry-designed organ. Her clear and dark-hued tone shone wonderfully in this context giving Handel’s music a real warmth and beauty. You’d think the organ would be tough competition for a vocal soloist, but Royal demonstrated that it was no match for her human talent shining like a diamond in front of the great machine.

With such a precedent, it’s no surprise that she could arrive in the last few minutes of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony over the weekend and virtually steal the whole show. Pablo Heras-Casado, who was filling in for an ailing Yuri Temirkanov, conducted the program this weekend, which also featured Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony. The Mendelssohn was a bit of a mess often surging ahead more than one might wish in unexpected areas. Thing’s started off better with the Mahler in a performance that made the most of the child-like aspects of the work. Sometimes things got rather ragged around the edges with several flubbed brass entrances and some mishandled quiet passages. But Royal arrived with some minimal dramatic flair riveting attention to herself, and rightly so. The final movement suddenly seemed to right the entire symphony that preceded it with her sheer force of will. While it may have been a small bit in a rather mixed program, she definitely made it an evening worth seeing.


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