Welsh baritone Paul Carey Jones is enjoying recognition for his pleasing combination of a fine, robust voice and delight in the acting opportunities of his riles.
This is evident in the role of rabbi David in Mascagni’s 1891 work L’amico Fritz at Opera Holland Park.
It is an opera championed by Opera Holland Park, and in this production by Julia Burbach, the work is set in some sort of glorious Italian idyllic modern setting, although much is kept simple and minimalist.
Mascagni moves from sultry, passionate Sicily to the lighter tale of a confirmed bachelor called Fritz who while cynical about marriage and family life provides money to enable others to wed, much to the delight of local matchmaker, the Rabbi David.
The story is a bet by David on Fritz’s birthday that he can man make him marry and this is of course achieved with one of his tenant farmer’s having a daughter Suzel who has grown into a young woman. Fritz’s pals Hanezo and Federico (sung by Themba Mvula and Mike Bradley) doubt if David can win his wager but they are wrong (of course).
Conducted by Beatrice Venezi, making her Opera Holland Park debut, the City of London Sinfonia bring Mascagni’s pretty and at times thrilling score to life. Particularly delightful are the arias in the final act when Fritz decided he is up for it after all – and the Italianate tenor of Matteo Lippi is splendid. Soprano Katie Bird was an elegant and at times thrilling singer throughout the opera.
Central to the drama is the rabbi played with great zeal by Paul Carey Jones (below) and his robust bass baritone lyrical voice proving a highlight of the performance.
Not so convincing was Burbach’s production, particularly the decision to make the travelling violinist Beppe, sung by Kezia Bienek a secondary match maker (donning cupid wings at times) and lessening the role of David.
There is much more to come from Paul Carey Jones and hopefully some of it might be in Wales – a land seemingly void of opportunities for its new clutch of fine singers who are so appreciated in England.
Main image: Paul Carey Jones.
He has also written a book called Giving It Away, Classical Music in Lockdown, and other fairytale chronicling the voyage of the classical music industry through the perils – and opportunities – of a global pandemic.