Wales’s worlwide acclaimed mezzo-soprano returned last week to London’s most enchanting concert hall, in an event which marked her first comeback ever to the venue since her special lockdown gig. Guillermo Názara reviews this once-in-a-lifetime performance, to let us know if the charm of the season was matched by this never-seen-before rendition.
There are many ways to refer to something magical. And yet, none of them are useful at describing it. Words are supposed to make you feel, to transport you to those hidden corners of the mind that build a bridge between your soul and somebody else’s. But that doesn’t happen when we’re talking about something so trascendent, so utterly beautiful, that even the most elegant phrase, however honed and polished it may be, can only serve as a blurred reflection of what you have experienced. There might be an exception to that rule nonetheless – perhaps even two. One term is ‘Katherine’, the other one is ‘Jenkins’.
International praise foreshadows (or should we say brightens?) a career of over 30 years now (yes, she was an early blossom) that’s taken her from small-town talent to globally lauded singing superstar. The strategy has been well put together, though: delightful voice meets exceptional vocal technique meets a crossover repertoire. It’s just that simple… No matter what your taste in music is (don’t tell me you don’t like music, that’s humanly impossible), there’s something special, almost incomprehensible (but at the same time crystal clear), about classical music taking over popular music and transforming it into an intoxicating dream you wish you’d never be woken up from. This was, of course, no exception – it was, at many moments, a fair embodiment of that idea – and its apotheosis.
A brightly conducted orchestra welcomes guests into this soon-to-unroll reverie of Christmas fantasy. Behind them, an accomplished choir awaits their cue, ready to bring out the force and passion confined in those staves, filled by some of the most refined composers of every last century. First number ends and there she is: grand but gentle, pure but striking, big but delicate. A cheerful applause boosted by the audience’s anticipation fills an already electrified space. She starts singing. Nothing else to say. With exceptionally well put together arrangements of very different kinds of seasonal music, there begins a show where sound and image (the latter only counting on a few lighting tricks) have got deep inside you past all your senses – and managed to tamper with some mechanics science can’t simply explain or recognize. They belong to the art, and this was art at its best.
Laced altogether through some interesting anecdotes, comments and (as it usually happens with these events – Lea Salonga couldn’t be the only one) an occasional: “We love you”, from the viewers, the show is, in fair fact, the real kind you can only realise how much you would have regretted not coming once you’ve seen it. To top it all, fans from the film industry to the musical theatre realm and passing through the lands of pop music, would be glad to know (or mortified, if they didn’t attend) that the lady was not alone onstage all the time. Privilege was actually given to us when we could see actor Andy Serkins (many may recognize him -his voice, we hope- from playing Golum in Lord of the Rings) accompanying her on the saxophone (a Christmas miracle? Nah, he’s actually very good at it), and later succeeded by a most emotional duet starring one of West End’s most reputable actors, John Owen Jones. To add extra icing on the cake, Cliff Richard made the gig’s final guest appearance, in a much enjoyable rendition full of nostalgia and the good-will feel of these times.
Big expectations can create big disappointments. Or at the best case scenario, just mix with reality. But oddities are what keep life interesting and, at the end of the day, make it what it truly is. This concert, and its lead, are by all means anomaly of all sorts – because not only have they been capable of exceeding their promise (and the one we unavoidably make to ourselves when we anticipate something) but also triggered some new sensations we could not have even envisioned most probably. As the famous quote says, t is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air – and never before has the air been so close to be touched.
All pictures credit to Adam Pettitt for this site, except for the thumbnail, which is kindly provided by the Royal Albert Hall PR team.
Katherine Jenkins performed at the venue for a single night on Thursday 8 December. More Christmas events at the RAH can be found on this link.