Some Enchanted Evenings at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne


Appassionata at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne *****
Eastbourne's breathtakingly magnificent Grand Hotel, so imposing yet also so welcoming, has an impressive roster of visiting musicians since its opening in 1875. Among the many luminaries who have crossed its portals are Debussy (who completed La Mer here), Kreisler, Caruso, Nellie Melba, Ysaye, Paul Robeson, Myra Hess… the list goes on.
Latest to join them is the young vocal quartet Appassionata, who, together with pianist Will Sharma, presented a three-night entertainment "Some Enchanted Evenings" at the end of March. It began with baritone Matthew Siveter, already a much-loved veteran of Gilbert and Sullivan productions, presenting his one-man show "A Source of Innocent Merriment", drawing material from the likes of G&S themselves, Noel Coward, Flanders and Swann, Tom Lehrer, as well as delivering his own little list of topical hates, including electric scooters and Wordle-boasters.
He was joined next evening by soprano Claire Wild, mezzo and director Maria Jagusz, and tenor Jack Roberts for "Come to the Opera", a smooth-running sequence of well-loved operatic excerpts. Among the highlights were Wild's radiant Faust "Jewel Song", Jagusz' deeply-felt "Che faro" from Gluck's Orfeo, and Roberts' "Una furtiva lagrima". Among Siveter's contributions was a wonderful collaboration with Wild and Jagusz in Cosi fan Tutte's "Soave sia il vento"
The mood changed for the concluding evening bringing Operetta and Songs from the Shows. A West Side Story sequence opened, with an enchanting "Tonight" from Wild up in the Grand's Compton Room elegant balcony singing down to the ardent Roberts. Later Roberts and Siveter delivered a knockabout "Bold Gendarmes", before Siveter was joined by Wild for a grippingly moving "Bess, you is my woman now". Jagusz held us all in a world-stopping "Memory" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
This was a wonderful team performance over three evenings, with Will Sharma's invaluable and versatile keyboard support. All the guests buying into this very generous three-night package deal were hoping the experience can be repeated very soon.
Christopher Morley

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