Musical partners for a third of a century, soprano Felicity Lott and her peerless accompanist Graham Johnson are currently touring the country with a song-evening entitled ?Fallen Women and Virtuous Wives?.
Possibly not quite the material for a Sunday evening in Lichfield Cathedral, but who was caring? Dame Felicity embraces her audience with such engagement, projecting innocent good humour one moment, heart-rending tenderness the next, that every listener feels part of her presentation.
And, in this case, every listener genuinely became every observer, too, thanks to the Lichfield Festival?s legendary expertise at closed-circuit television relay to all parts of the building. Every member of the scattered audience could focus upon close-ups (never unflattering for this lady whom age has not withered) of Lott?s features, and marvel at technical skills which have become consummate and instinctive over the decades.
The ?mask? of her facial structure permits the smoothest of shifts between areas of her range, her breathing support brings wonderful control over tone and inflection, and all the while Dame Felicity?s eyes are cajoling, caressing, accepting, grieving. All of this even without considering her delightfully subtle but so effective body-language.
Her programme ranged from Haydn to Noel Coward and beyond, and found her employing a wide range of timbres, from the old hag of Mozart?s Die Alte to the generous exaltation of Weill?s ?Here I?ll Stay?.
Johnson sculpted gentle links between some of the offerings, and distinguished himself in the cascading piano postlude to Wolf?s ?Ich hab? in Penna?. And with Lott he sent us home with the heart-piercing simplicity of Britten?s Waly, waly.
One of Lott?s songs told of Cleopatra. Custom has certainly not staled the infinite variety of this particular dame.