George Square, Glasgow ***
It was hard not to view the respective performances and audiences as chalk and cheese. Over in Berlin, the white-tie-and-tailed Brandenburger orchestra, the docile, formally-seated audience, and the distinctly central European classical programme under the baton of Errico Fresis, seemed markedly staid. In Glasgow, by contrast, we had the tartan-tied youth of NYOS, its dapper conductor Paul Daniel, ebullient presenters Jamie MacDougall and RCS drama student Rebecca Wilkie, and toe-tapping music that ranged from Verdi operatic hits to folk music from young traditional combo Eriska, and a standing audience who came and went as they pleased, drinks in hand.
So, while Berlin’s safety-first performances of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Brahms and Bartok dances and Ravel songs with soloist Israel Martins dos Reis weren’t exactly the height of toe-tapping excitement (the low speaker volume gave them an undernourished muzak effect), NYOS’s live presence, which was well-amplified and driven by more party-style repertoire, stole the show.
There was dynamic thrust from the word go, and a performance of Bernstein’s Candide overture that sizzled with pizazz. Then came the outstanding talent from the RCS Opera School, and a series of opera solos and ensembles that gave the punters the thrill they were after.
Individually, these budding young stars engaged and entranced us. Mezzo soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones delivered Gershwin’s immortal Summertime with seductive charm; sturdy baritone Mark Nathan brought resounding gravitas to Bizet’s Toreador’s Song; soprano Emma Mockett made an old favourite, Puccini’s O mio babbino caro, her own; and David Lynn, an impressively glowing operatic tenor, negotiated Donizetti’s Ah, mes amis with radiant ease.
But the real lustre arrived in the ensembles: the famous male duet from Pearl Fishers; the female Flower Duet from Lakmé; and a spine tingling Verdi quartet from Rigoletto. Finally, MacDougall himself brought the night to a heart-warming close with opulent version of Loch Lomond.
If anything let the Scottish side down, it was the messily produced live camera work. In that area, the ever-efficient Germans had the upper hand.