News and Reviews
Assembly Rooms, Derby - Tuesday 22nd June 2010
Two years ago it was Bess of Hardwick. This year Derbyshire's been marking the centenary of the death of another of the county's great historical figures, Florence Nightingale.
Peter Roberts must be feeling practically on first-name terms with her by now. Not only did he write Derby Youth Theatre's recent show A Lady With a Lamp, but he has also written the libretto for Sinfonia Viva's summer schools' project, Floratorio (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 22 June 2010).
With children from six local primary and junior schools (two of them from the area around Florence's family home) contributing their own songs, James Redwood's score draws on a range of other music. The first thing we hear, quoting the nightingale from Messiaen's Reveil des Oiseaux sets the scene of rural tranquility from which Florence was to journey so far (as well as having obvious emblematic significance); a minuet by Boyce represents the social life of her family home, Victorian popular songs colour the story's later stages. With both his amazing ability to hold this disparate range of material together, and the imagination and skill of his own music, Redwood does not put a foot wrong.
Soprano Claire Surman, as Florence, and baritone Robert Davies as narrator and the various men in her life, sang their solo roles with operatic vividness. Conductor David Lawrence held it all together with his usual flair.
But the evening really belonged to a bunch of enthusiastic, fired-up kids who not only contributed their own enjoyable and often witty songs, but sang the often quite challenging music Redwood had written for them with total confidence.
Review by Mike Wheeler