Early on in Albanian lyric tenor Saimir Pirgu’s recital at Wigmore Hall last night (that’s twice to the Wigmore in one day – a record for me), there was a moment when I felt a bit sorry for him. What must it be like for a performer to step out on to a stage in front of a packed auditorium like last night and know there are smart arses like me near to the back row writing notes? That thought alone would be enough to keep me backstage, assuming I had any aspirations to perform.
This is not a lengthy introduction to a review intended to damn with faint praise. Pirgu has a captivating presence and verve about him which fills the room and whips up the crowd. Verdi is clearly where he feels at home. He shone in Questa o quella from Rigoletto and Ah, la paterno mano from Macbeth in which Saimir clearly felt most at home. Something transformative happened in Ah! leve-toi soleil from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, making the lyric “But, what sudden light shines through yonder window?” all the more poignant.
Violinst Alda Dizdari joined Pirgu on stage with accompanist Simon Lepper in The words of the candle written the violinst’s father in 1979 for the first in a selection of Albanian songs that were always bound to whip up the diaspora audience into a deserving frenzy. Roars of appreciation followed Dizdari’s song and another anonymous Albanian song, before the programmed evening concluded with Francesco Cilea’s E la solita storia del pastore.
Saimir Pirgu appears at the Royal Opera on Saturday 16 May at 7pm in a production of Szymanowski’s King Roger.
The picture in this post was taken from @RosenblattOpera‘s Twitter feed and features Saimir and pianist Simon Lepper in rehearsal earlier yesterday afternoon.
The next Rosenblatt Recital is on 4 March and features baritone Simone Piazzola.