A New Opera Star Seen In Liverpool

Yunpeng Pic by Dario Acosta
ASTRONOMERS may well have discovered a new planet this week, but the UK’s first sighting of a star rising in the operatic firmament was seen in Liverpool on Sunday. Baritone Yunpeng Wang has already caught the attention of the world’s press since winning the Don Plácido Domingo, Sr., Zarzuela Prize at the 2012 Operalia competition and is appearing in the current New York  Metropolitan Opera season, most recently in the role of Fiorello in The Barber of Seville. In March-April this year he sings Prince Yamadori in the Met’s Madame Butterfly and will reach a global cinema audience in a live HD relay on April 2nd. It was therefore a rare treat for a Liverpool audience to hear Mr Wang’s UK debut recital in the intimacy of the Concert Room at St George’s Hall. This recital is the second of four planned by Liverpool Opera – Four Seasons, featuring Operalia winners, offering an opportunity to witness some outstanding singing talent. It follows an acclaimed appearance by Ekaterina Lekhina in October. From the opening aria, Avant de quitter ces lieux from Gounod’s Faust, it was clear that Yunpeng Wang has a wonderfully rich, smooth baritone and it’s easy to see how he can fill the Metropolitan Opera House, as there were clearly reserves of power in a voice delicately reigned in for the recital room. In a varied program that differed slightly from that published, Mr Wang showed versatility in taking us from the romanticism of Gounod and Torroba via the drama of Verdi to the wit and agility of Rossini. Whilst his voice has great warmth, he also articulates brilliantly, bringing clarity to every line, and there is a reassuring evenness of tone across his remarkable range. There’s a refreshing openness to his performance style too, and you can see his need to act – something he demonstrated most of all in his final aria, Rossini’s Largo al Factotum, for which he abandoned the stage and took to the floor of the concert room, much to the delight of the audience. Sharing the stage was guest artist, soprano Ingrid Kertesi, who sang several solo arias as well as joining Yunpeng Wang in a couple of duets. Her Volta la terrea from Un Ballo in Maschera showed a deft coloratura and there was good interaction between the pairing in duets from Mozart and Rossini. Both singers gave solo encores, with Mr Wang offering a Chinese piece to close the evening. Special mention must go to the sympathetic and elegant playing of accompanist Kirsty Ligertwood, who stepped in at short notice to cover for the indisposed David Walters. Watch out for details of forthcoming recitals from Liverpool Opera, who promise us more of the same world-class operatic talent for the future.  Review by Nigel Smith