Review: Stefan Pop At St George’s Hall

Photo: Lucian Enasoni
FOLLOWING on from recitals earlier this year with Ekaterina Lekhina and Yunpeng Wang, Liverpool Opera Four Seasons introduced Liverpool to yet another former winner of the Placido Domingo Operalia competition, lyric tenor Stefan Pop. Pop has appeared at many of the world’s greatest opera houses, from La Scala Milan to Deutsche Oper Berlin, and from Mikhailovsky St Petersburg to London’s Covent Garden. In the intimate setting of St George’s Hall’s concert room he gave a recital featuring some of the most popular tenor arias including music from, among others, Verdi, Puccini and Rossini. Opening with Questa o quella from Rigoletto, it was immediately clear why comparisons are being made between Pop and Pavarotti. A powerful, bright, colourful tenor voice combined with a lively and hugely engaging stage presence immediately had the audience captivated. In the first half of the programme he also gave us Oronte’s act 2 aria from I Lombardi and took us to the interval with Che gelida manina from La Boheme. Being a “Pop” concert it naturally came plus support, and we welcomed Barbara Ruzsics (who appeared with Lekhina earlier this year) and Andreas Z Magony. Ruzsics gave a delicately phrased Exultate Jubilate and Debussy’s Nuit d’etoiles, while Magony added concert arias as well as E lucevan le stelle from Tosca. His is a strong voice but his phrasing was at times a little awkward and he had some tendency to focus on projection over tuning. After the interval the stage belonged to Stefan Pop, beginning with Rossini’s impossibly complicated tarantella, La Danza, which he navigated with thrilling flair. This was followed by the act 3 duet from La Traviata, where he was joined by Ruzsics. After two more solos for Pop and Magony, the singers began to play musical games, turning solos into duets and duets into trios, with Pop and Magony sharing roles, and ending with two encores – the Brindisi from Traviata and a duet version of Nessun Dorma. The evening was again beautifully accompanied at the piano by Kirsty Ligertwood who on this occasion also gave us an instrumental interlude in part 1, with a heartfelt solo performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. Liverpool Opera Four Seasons will continue their series in the autumn and have promised us some surprises. Keep an eye on Good News for details of what’s coming up next. Review by Nigel Smith