By Jane Ferrie
Celebrate Pegasus!, the 25th anniversary performance of Brixton-based Pegasus Opera, was a splendid and fitting tribute to its founder Lloyd Newton, who died this January. The magic of the Actors’ Church and the proximity to the beauty and power of the four singers (soprano Alison Buchanan, mezzo Denise Hector, tenor Ronald Samm, bass-baritone Keel Watson) combined to enrapture the audience.
An imaginative programme, which brought together well-known favourites with pieces from little known operas based on the African-American slave experience, was a fantastic way to introduce the latter to a wider audience. Most poignant for me was Margaret’s lullaby from the Margaret Garner, an opera with a libretto by Toni Morrison, loosely based on events in the life of a runaway slave and the inspiration for her novel Beloved.
Taking opera to a wider audience is one of Pegasus’s missions and the second half of the programme began with the haunting ‘Song of the Hebrew Slaves’ sung by the Pegasus Intergenerational Choir.
Celebrate Pegasus! finished with a selection of well-loved pieces from Porgy and Bess. Alison Buchannan, the new artistic director, explained that Porgy and Bess was dear to the company as it was how they got most of their work. It is an indictment of the opera world and beyond that this is so. However, more importantly, Alison continued, is that it was through Porgy and Bess that she and others got to know Lloyd. May Lloyd Newton’s legacy be that Pegasus and its performers become the household names they deserve.
Pegasus’s new project; ‘Opera in the Park’ next summer in Brockwell Park. For further details visit pegasus-opera.net