At the end of a dire year for opera and song, as for all live music, her performance in two show-stoppers in the Royal Opera Christmas Concert was a reminder of the enormous enjoyment we London audiences have in seeing top-class singers at the start of their careers.
The Spanish-born British soprano joined the distinguished Jette Parker scheme at the Royal Opera House during this challenging year, but she is no beginner. Trained in Manchester and London, she has already had huge success in two important international competitions, coming second in the Glyndebourne Opera Cup and third at the Concorso Lirico Internazionale di Portofino.
One to watch: soprano Alexandra Lowe, star of the Royal Opera Christmas Concert
Followers of the Royal Opera sat up when she appeared with Jonathan McGovern in a magical Apollo and Daphne in the 4/4 programme, earlier this year.
At the Christmas concert she sings the flirtatious Musetta, who gives her sugar daddy the runaround in Puccini's La Bohème. Her yelp of pain faked to despatch him to fetch new shoes is alone worth the price of the access code. Glittering in voice and satin pyjamas, she is the singer we will be watching most keenly in 2021, and listening to with guaranteed pleasure. There is a gleam in the perfectly controlled voice that will brighten any production.
Lowe returned to sing Papagena, the perfect match for birdcatcher Papageno in a closing duet from Mozart's The Magic Flute, with baritone Ross Ramgobin. Ramgobin has been another Christmas bonus – heartbreaking in Grange Park's Owen Wingrave and partying with gusto in Opera Holland Park's Christmas bonanza (both still available online). Here's to a great 2021 for both singers.
Christmas box: ROH soloists Alexandra Lowe, Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, Hanna Hipp and Sophie Bevan. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Master of ceremonies at the Royal Opera Christmas Concert is baritone Roderick Williams, ever an audience favourite, characteristically warm and welcoming, and in the comfy nightwear that is the dress-down code at this informal party.
Arguably the long overture from Rossini's La Cenerentola, followed by a long orchestral interlude before the forest scene in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, gets the evening off to a slow start. But stick with the 90-minute programme: Lowe's high-jinks at Puccini's Parisian Café Momus make the journey worthwhile.
Later on, Wiilliams is the soloist in Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols. First performed in 1912 at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford, the composition weaves together carols including The First Nowell and the jaunty Sussex Carol.
Roderick Williams is master of ceremonies and baritone soloist. Photo: Tristram Kenton
But of all the carols that round off the evening, none is so infectiously sung as Ding! Dong! Merrily on High a polished finish sung around the Christmas tree at the heart of Julia Trevelyan Oman's cosy set. Perhaps this is where the concert should have begun...
And on that happy note, the curtain comes down on the Royal Opera's Christmas party, and a year to remember – for unstoppable talent like Alexandra Lowe's, breaking through against all the odds, and for the promise of more to come.
The Royal Opera Christmas Concert is sung in English, German, Italian, with English surtitles. Click here to view the online streaming
|What||Royal Opera Christmas Concert: review|
On 18 Dec 20, Streamed online, on demand with subscription
|Website||Click here to view|