Soprano Marion Smith delights her Haywards Heath audience

REVIEW BY Melvyn Walmsley

Sunday, 3rd November 2019, 10:07 am
Marion Smith

Miranda: lunchtime recital by Marion Smith (soprano) with Andrew Storey (piano) and Alison Letschka (flute)

St Wilfrid's Church, Church Road, Haywards Heath

Soprano Marion Smith's whole-hearted opener in this recital, Richard Hageman's Miranda, instantly endorsed the programme note that she 'has a passion for singing and performing'. She maintained strong commitment and audience engagement throughout an imaginative selection of songs and arias from early English opera to 1980s musicals. Each one, she explained, has a special place in her performance memories since making her teenage debut in operetta.

The myriad of contrasting moods she conveyed was as wide as the musical timespan, from Josephine weighing up her options in HMS Pinafore to a sensitive, moving rendering of Dido's lament in Purcell's semi-opera; from Maria's joyful anticipation in I Feel Pretty (West Side Story) to Cleopatra's fluctuations between grief and vengeance in Handel's Giulio Cesare. Fortunately the final item, Ernest Charles's When I Have Sung My Songs, proved misleading. For she sent us away humming her encore from Showboat (Kern/Hammerstein) – the smiling resignation of Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.

Keeping up with the tempo changes and emotional rollercoaster of this eclectic repertoire, Andrew Storey provided an equally flexible and accomplished piano accompaniment. After Marion's wistfully sung Moonfall from Holmes's The Mystery of Edwin Drood came his greatest challenge – Jehan Alain's Trois Mouvements. For this, Alison Letschka (flute) joined him in the church where she had served as curate, having first established herself as a successful flute recitalist and teacher. With deceptive ease, they negotiated the intricate interlacing of themes for their two instruments, catching the opening movement's impressionism, the idiosyncrasies and humour of the middle movement and the intense, committed vitality of the last.

That brief instrumental interval, dazzlingly delivered, complemented Marion's vocal élan, her expressive body language and impressive dynamic range and diction. Sondheim's lyrics in I Feel Pretty summed up her performance: 'stunning and entrancing'.

Melvyn Walmsley