FELICITY LOTT - CAMBRIDGE SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL
I have no idea what life is like on Clouds 1 to 8. But if you ask me about Cloud 9, I can tell you all about it, I was on there last night. It was a concert by Dame Felicity Lott, a blissful evening of songs from the operettas and musicals by one of the world’s legendary sopranos. On the impressive stage of the Peter Hall Arts Centre, Lott came bounding on with her pianist Jason Carr. From the very start we knew we were in for a wonderful evening. Dame F greeted us all like old friends, beaming a genuinely warm smile with nothing of the decorative Diva quality one might expect from such a star. Her casual attire – silver jacket and trousers heralded the informal atmosphere she created which helped us love the songs she sang and her own personality even more. She also created a rather lovely relationship with Carr who is a pianist of the highest quality.
Lott began by reminiscing about her early days in opera under the direction of Peter Hall himself. Her first piece was a jolly and coquettish aria by Offenbach, ‘Ah! Que J’aime les Militaires!’ As with each of her songs, she sings beautifully and acts like a National Theatre performer with total conviction and pair of sparkling eyes. Next up (and to my utter delight as G&S fan) came something she first sang fifty years ago.‘The Sun Whose Rays’ from ‘The Mikado’ with lyrics by W.S. Gilbert is a piece flowing with a rich current of finely polished words such as ‘effulgent’ and a gorgeously romantic melody by Arthur Sullivan. Her phrasing and good old-fashioned pinpoint articulation set the musical bar high.
There is real understanding and electricity between Carr and Lott – he following every tiny nuance of her performance. But he was also allowed to shine in two stunning solos – Addison’s grandiose tribute to Rachmaninoff, ‘The Warsaw Concerto’ and the ballet music, ‘Slaughter of Fifth Avenue’ by Richard Rodgers. Songs by the latter composer formed the finale of Lott’s show but more of that in a moment.
With little bits of framing chat, La Lott mesmerised us with songs by Franz Lehar, Oscar Straus and Noel Coward (whose song ‘If Love Were All’ is one of the truly greats-of-all-time and sung here with a brittle intensity that brought tears to my old eyes). Three great show numbers by Sondheim were followed by a medley of mouth-watering melodies by Richard Rodgers: his rarely heard ‘Never say no to a man’ (full of ironic wit and sung with a cheeky glint), three with words penned by Hammerstein – ‘What’s the Use of Wond’rin’, the sinuous ‘Something Wonderful’ from ‘The King and I’ and ‘Lonely Goatherd’ from ‘Sound of Music’. With more offerings from Rodgers and Hart’s songbook – ‘Bewitched’ and the risqué ‘Den of Iniquity’, Lott and Carr brought the house down and of course we demanded and got an encore – Offenbach’s tipsy song from ‘La Pericole’. Again Lott showed her superb acting skills rolling about on unsteady legs and a faux inebriated voice.
Too polite to give Felicity Lott the standing ovation she richly deserved, the audience clapped and cheered at the end. I did too looking down on that stage from my vantage point high up on Cloud 9.