In a change of format for the Concert Series, Richard Saxel began this evening concert by interviewing two opera stars on stage in front of a large audience, before accompanying them in a recital. Kathryn Harries OBE has had a 40 year career at the top of the opera profession, and Hilary Cronin (OC) is beginning a highly promising career on stage. The interview embraced a discussion on the challenges of learning roles in different languages, the music each had chosen to sing in the recital that followed, advice on how to make the most of opportunities for young singers at Cranleigh, how to forge a career in opera, and how each artist’s career had developed. As a result, the audience were able to engage with the artistes on a more personal level, and to enjoy the concert the followed with greater understanding of the repertoire and the approach of the singers.

Kathryn is a consummate professional who chose her repertoire with care; humour never far from the surface, apart from in her visceral interpretation of the Kostelnicka’s Co Chvila (from Janacek’s Jenufa). This is a role that she has sung to critical acclaim in many of the world’s great opera houses, including at Glyndebourne, and her experience and immersion in it over many years gives her interpretation searing force and uncompromising drama.

Hilary has been associated with Cranleigh since being a Music Scholar in 2005, and she is developing as an opera star of the future. Her charm, warmth and sense of fun shine through in all she does, but she has the technique and musicality to go with it. Her sparkling Handel aria and sumptuous yet tragic Embroidery Aria (from Britten’s Peter Grimes) were highlights, and her beautifully intimate rendition of Jerome Kern’s Bill showed her versatility, matching Ava Gardner’s original recording for sensuality!

This was a wonderful concert given by two stars at opposite ends of their careers, and who were able to engage with an enthusiastic audience in a hugely entertaining evening.