Awesome performance at new Northumberland Music Festival had a little bit of everything, says Phil Johnson

opera singer, soprano, samantha crawford perfroming at doxford hall performing with richard latham''''pic by lloyd wright
opera singer, soprano, samantha crawford perfroming at doxford hall performing with richard latham''''pic by lloyd wright

MUSIC

Gala Opera

Doxford Hall

although there was a rather sombre start to proceedings on the first night of the inaugural Northumberland Music Festival, the opening show that followed must have left Doxford Hall’s owner with a lump in his throat.

Robert Parker spent six months and half a million pounds refurbishing Doxford Hall after buying the magnificent Georgian hotel little over a year ago before setting about bringing together some of the most talented musicians in the country for a ten-day festival.

It was an event the whole Parker family have taken a great deal of pride in organising. Sadly, Robert’s brother, Roger, died suddenly a week before seeing all the work come to fruition. He was 62. In a poignant moment before the opening show on Friday, Robert stood before the audience to dedicate the whole festival to his brother. It was then over to Robin Newton to deliver.

The Garsington Opera music director is renowned for his imaginative and dramatic productions and this proved to be no exception.

Rather than a traditional opera, the feast served up was what Robin himself described as a ‘Verdi sandwich’. Topped and tailed by performances of Verdi opera, the glorious gala opening included arias, duets, trios and quartets from famous Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Puccini and Bizet operas in the repertoire. Samantha Crawford, the glamorous young soprano who has captivated viewers on ‘Songs of Praise’, was billed as the star and did not disappoint. She was joined by Romanian-born mezzo soprano Adriana Festeu and the fabulous tenor Richard Latham. But the most impressive performance came from tenor Charne Rochford.

Perhaps it was the intimate nature of the venue itself which made all four so impressive. Sitting just three metres from the stage, it quickly became apparent how much physical effort is required to sing so loudly while retaining perfect vocal control in harmony with other performers on stage. What we were treated to was beautiful opera belted out with great passion. Roger would have loved it.

The festival continues until November 3. For more info, visit www.nmfestival.com