In this vibrant celebration of France’s national day, flutist Jane Rutter was joined on stage by soprano Yvonne Kenny, baritone Andrew Jones and accordéonist Marcello Maio. Accompanying the soloists were Vincent Colagiuri on piano, Eleanor Betts on cello, and Owen Torr on harp. Armchairs, tables and plants were elegantly arranged around the stage and an image of the Eiffel Tower adorned the black curtain that served as a backdrop, creating a warm, intimate space. In this picturesque setting, the musicians lounged insouciantly in armchairs between pieces, becoming part of the audience while their colleagues performed.
The program took the form of a series of vignettes, spanning hundreds of years of French musical history, from Marin Marais’ baroque theme and variations Les Folies d’Espagne to Cole Porter’s I Love Paris. Yvonne Kenny performed beautiful French art songs and operatic arias, including a riveting performance of Bizet’s well-loved Habanera from the opera, Carmen. Maio transported the audience into the streets of Paris with his florid, virtuosic accordion playing and Rutter performed her own whimsical arrangement of Satie’s eerie Gnossienne No. 1, for piccolo, harp and cello, featuring ambient, occult sounds from the cello and flutter-tonguing on the piccolo.
Jones was particularly compelling; his rich baritone and characterful performances – lurching drunkenly in Ravel’s Chanson a Boire de Don Quichotte à Dulcinée and whipping the crowd into a frenzy with Votre Toast, (the Toreador Song from Carmen) – were the highlight of this concert. There were many wonderful moments throughout the night. Kenny’s performance of Si Mes Vers Avaient des Ailes deserves a mention, as does the soulful rendition of Saint-Saëns’ Le Cygne (The Swan), performed by Betts and Torrs. At times the musicians departed from the printed program, but there was plenty of saucy banter from the stage to keep the audience both entertained and informed.
The encores began with Loewe’s The Night They Invented Champagne before Rutter introduced the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, with a musical battle between the French anthem and Waltzing Matilda on tin whistle. For a final flourish, Rutter and Kenny returned to the stage wearing feather boas for a lively can-can, the singers dancing while Rutter played piccolo. Replete with favourites from the French repertoire, La Rêvolution was an entertaining tribute to the music and culture of France.