Ben Johnson at Wigmore HallCultureMusicLive music
In the stunning historic surroundings of Wigmore Hall, Ben Johnson’s luxurious tenor vocals serenade the audience in an operatic recital of various pieces from 1877-1945, alternating between English and Italian. His controlled yet dexterous melodious manoeuvring is reflected in the opulent velvet of his tailored jacket.
The pieces chosen all reflect themes of love and nature, but also take on slightly mischievous and sexual undertones. In Betty and Johnny, the gentle way that Johnson brings out the passion and desire between two lovers is masterful, heard too in The Stuttering Lovers. Moments later, he transforms his voice to tell a cautionary tale of the infant King Henry or the woes of money in Money, O!. The variety best shows off Johnson’s abilities.
Pianist James Baillieu is an excellent accompaniment, at times fading well into the background, acting as the perfect accessory to Johnson’s dulcet tones. At other moments, the piano almost seems to challenge Johnson, and the two inflame one another to greater heights.
Johnson’s voice is not only enthralling, but brings drama and theatrics to each song. The sway of his hand directs the emotional route of the song, even bringing out his handkerchief in order to emphasise the lament of the death of King Henry. This adds to the weight of each tune, but also brings light where appropriate, through exaggerated movement.
This performance is part of the Rosenblatt Recital series at Wigmore Hall. The aim is to give both world-class voices and emerging talent an opportunity to reach London audiences outside of the traditional opera houses. It creates affordable showcases of immense talent that allows operatic and classical music to reach audiences that might otherwise feel alienated from this world. The programme is highly accessible and gives great scope for talented musicians whom might have far fewer opportunities to grace London’s stages. Ben Johnson, with his spectacular talent, is a great ambassador.
Ben Johnson was at Wigmore Hall as part of The Rosenblatt Recitals, which is on until June 2015, for further information visit here.