How did I not know that Waterperry Gardens in Wheatley had an outdoor amphitheatre? For those who are curious, it’s behind the cement store. This weekend it was home to a festival organised by the fabulously inventive Opera Anywhere, which culminated in a concert from the Leading Ladies.
Catrin Lewis (soprano), Suzi Saperia (soprano), Rosemary Clifford (mezzo-soprano) and Louisa Lam (piano) all have highly impressive biographies, and their repertoire tonight firmly hit the right notes: opera, songs from musicals, and lighter stuff. Like a chronologically tipsy West Egg party, we had Cole Porter mingling with Offenbach, Gershwin clinking glasses with Delibes, Bizet hitting the dance floor, and Rossini’s cats stealing the limelight. Absolutely the right kind of eclectic.
The three classically trained vocalists have a startling ability to combine polish with playfulness, delivering a range of pieces in an understated, quintessentially English, way. They were in tune, but also in tune with each other — which was a delight to watch. They were clearly having fun, and even said they were friends outside work. For some numbers — especially the 1930s jazz standards — they could have shown less decorum; in the words of Duke Ellington, “Just give that rhythm/Ev'rything you got.” That said, although there was levity, it never turned into effervescence (unlike the champagne from Die Fledermaus that they sang about so longingly).
Because they were performing outdoors, nature was also their accompaniment. To “Oh Shenandoah” the trees sighed, a pigeon cooed, and you were almost rolling down the Missouri yourself. Wearing polka-dots and string pearls, and nestled in arboreal splendour, these four English roses left the audience stomping for more. If you want a treat, go see them next time they’re in town.