Stuart Skelton (Melbourne Recital Centre)

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Michael Shmith Monday, 06 August 2018
Published in ABR Arts

Stuart Skelton, a fine performer and strong, sensitive singer, is by nature and profession a Heldentenor. He is indeed heroic, not only in voice but in how he carries himself on stage. His Wagnerian heroes – Parsifal, Tristan, Lohengrin and Siegmund in Die Walküre – emerge as strong and supple clarion calls perfectly suited to his strong and noble technique. But I think also of Skelton’s portrayals of such anti-heroes as Peter Grimes, beneath whose bluffness lies a fragile, disturbed mind, or other social misfits, including Laca, in Janáček’s Jenůfa, Hermann, in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, and Guido, in Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie

Not for Skelton (nor for any quality singer who can be mentioned in the same breath) the easy path to performance. Not for him the stand-and-deliver, pocket-the-fee-and-move-on approach. He is too committed an artist for that. With Skelton, one always has the feeling he has taken infinite pains, as much with the consideration of what he performs as with its preparation and execution.

For all of these reasons, I had high hopes that Skelton’s recital – his first in Australia, according to his website – would be something to treasure. In the event, although there were more than a few treasurable moments, I felt an underlying sense of the piecemeal and, at times, awkwardness. Recitals, almost subconsciously, should have an underlying momentum that involves performers and audience. This was there, but inconsistently so.

At some times, Skelton essayed music and text with beauteous attention and subtle dynamics; but at other times, he was coarse, approaching a stentorian bellow like a pipe organ on full swell. Similarly, Richard Peirson’s piano accompaniment, which seemed more dutiful than inspired, often varied in mood, from the lyrical to abrupt, like a series of fast gear-changes.

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Published in ABR Arts
Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. He edited The New Pocket Kobbé's Opera Book with George Lascelles, the seventh Earl of Harewood. He is currently writing the history of Cranlana, the Toorak home bought by Sidney and Merlyn Myer in 1920.

Comments (1)

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    5 languages, from memory, and vocal and dramatic shades from beautifully supported pianissimo to full-voice, heldentenoral majesty (and everything in between) and not a HINT of bellowing, to my ears, at least. And you’re the first, in my experience, to have accused Mr Skelton of bellowing anything, Michael. Would that he knew what your expectations were so that he could live up to them, especially as every other reviewer seems to be of the polar opposite opinion to yours and the spontaneous standing ovations seem to imply that the audience were also not in agreement with you.

    Monday, 06 August 2018 16:03 posted by The Listener

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