Music

REMEMBER ME

This program of songs for soloists, choir and small orchestra was very well put together to display the musical talents of all. The first half of the program was a collection of old and modern works on themes related to flowers and love, interspersed with selections from Dowland’s LACHRIMAE, which were selected for their relevance to the following piece. The LACHRIMAE selections gave the orchestra a chance to showcase their skills, which they did.

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OPERAMANIA

OPERAMANIAA delightful souffle of some of opera’s greatest hits this was a lot of fun.

Direct from Russia, the Moscow Novaya Opera brings us OPERAMANIA, currently touring Australia.  Convoluted opera plots are almost completely eliminated and favourite moments from Puccini, Verdi, Bizet and Mozart are blended into a fast-moving, seamless theatrical presentation.

The company consists of ten solo singers (oh what fabulous voices!) plus four dancers from the Russian Imperial Ballet, with a large  orchestra of 44 musicians behind them, making 60 artists all up on stage.

With lightning quick costume changes for each scene, the show zips through two to five minute excerpts from over a dozen composers. The program includes two medleys. The first, comprising Chopin waltzes, Liszt’s’ Liebestraüme’ and Rachmaninov’s’ Prelude in C-sharp minor’. In the second half, a ‘Mozart medley’ includes movements from his Piano Concerto No. 21, Symphony No. 40,’ Eine kleine Nachtmusik’, and the overture to’ The Marriage of Figaro’. Phew!

It is semi staged, with great acting and singing included. And mention must be made of some of the amazing costumes in particular worn by the women – some of the gowns were akin to wonderfully textured soft sculptures.

The huge orchestra (noticeably squashed for space on the stage), under the sparkling direction of maestro Andrey Lebedev, played magnificently and had a terrific time. The featured solo piano playing of Ekaterina Koplakova was glorious. There were no surtitles but there were constantly changing visuals screened as accompaniment – which actually could be quite distracting. And there was a running visual gag throughout with the use of umbrellas.

The show opened strongly with a passionate CARMEN segment. There were many highlights throughout the show .In the first half for example from Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ , Oleg Dolgov gave a superb rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ .

In the second half Andrei Fetisov as Mephistopheles from Gounod’s  ‘ Faust’ was mesmerizing , chilling and sinister . But especially Elizaveta Soina in ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s ‘Norma’ stopped the show. A vision in a white nightgown with her hair down, she was full if soaring purity and beauty yet also strong, captivating and in full control.

Elena Terentieva had some wicked fun wearing a silver and black costume as the Queen of the Night from Mozart’s magic Flute , effortlessly tossing off the bravura show off coloratura fireworks. Mention must also be made of the ‘Largo al factotum’ from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville’ as delightfully performed by Anton Vinogradov and Alexander Popov. The septet from Rossini’s “Italian Girl in Algiers’ , ‘Va Sossopra il mio cervello’ that brought the first half to a conclusion revealed great comic timing.

Ballet was also included but was rather disappointing .Because of the small stage space the dancers were quite restricted .The choreography generally was quite traditional .Special mention however must be made of the fabulous Yaroslava Araptanova, who had incredible control in her adage and was marvellous as the spirit of Pavlova in ‘The Dying Swan’ and excellent in the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ pas de deux.

If you were looking for a great way to introduce someone to opera and have terrific fun, this would be a delightful choice.     With a running time of approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, OPERAMANIA is playing the City Recital Hall at Angel Place on two further occasions, Tuesday 16th April and Wednesday 17th April, 2013

© Lynne Lancaster

OPERAMANIA

Elena Terentieva in Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE

If MTV had a classical cousin that promoted snapshots of great operas, ballets and instrumental music, then this pastiche from the Moscow Novaya Opera would definitely help ratings.

In OPERAMANIA, fourteen dramatic and comic moments from the well-known Italian, French, German and Russian repertoires are staged with awesome dramatic presence and vocal delivery. The singing is focused and passionate. Ensemble interaction and choreography is strongly characterised and interesting, following modern trends in costuming and direction.

But wait, there is more! The large orchestra which digs right into the famous accompaniments also performs five items alone, including medleys of much loved eighteenth century classics and nineteenth century polkas and marches. Even a Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto excerpt is thrown into the mix.

Katerina Kolpakova’s piano work also supports the stars of the Imperial Russian Ballet in the event’s first ballet interludes. Romantic period favourites by Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov are choreographed. Three Nutcracker excerpts and The ‘Grand Adage’ from The Sleeping Beauty continue the audience’s exposure to classics of Tchaikovsky’s ballet output.

The night is busy, but of such a high standard that the audience is repeatedly delighted and not confused. Outstanding solo singing pleases a bravo –shouting crowd. Yaroslav Abaimov in ‘Ah, lève-toi, soleil’ from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet will surely continue to bring such praise. Elizaveta Soina’s ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s Norma is captivating. Balletic strength and elegance is well illustrated in the ‘Grand Adage’ from Sleeping Beauty.

This event enjoyed great acoustics in the City Recital Hall, and proceeded admirably despite cramped conditions. Instead of surtitles, a rather beautifully abstract slideshow of continental portraiture and landscape was suspended above the stage. Adjusting or deleting this may have created space, however such screens are becoming popular additions to modern concerts.

This is a thrilling event to tour Australia, and maybe is the next classical music and dance mélange to require a stadium. The extended standing ovation seemed to suggest such potential.

Moscow’s Nevaya Opera’s production of OPERAMANIA is playing the City Recital Hall on two further occasions, Tuesday 16th April and Wednesday 17th April, 2013.

© Paul Nolan

14th April, 2013

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- OPERAMANIA, City Recital Hall, Moscow Novaya Opera, Elena Terentieva, Sydney Arts Guide, Paul Nolan

LIGHT AND GOLD- THE MUSIC OF ERIC WHITACRE

Grammy Award winner Eric Whitacre

Celebrated Grammy award winning American conductor/composer Eric Whitacre, known globally on YouTube
through his virtual choir, made his conducting debut of his own music on Saturday night with the Sydney Philharmonia Symphony Chorus and the youth choir VOX, accompanied by the Synergy Percussion and the Acacia Quartet along with Christopher Cartner on piano and organ.

LIGHT AND GOLD- THE MUSIC OF ERIC WHITACRE proved to be a special night at the Concert Hall. Whitacre was a warm host and he gently introduced each piece, providing some background, in what turned out to be a very strong program.

Whitacre’s love of poetry and his wonderful musical arrangements of poems by E E Cummings, Octavia Paz, Greek poet Pindar, Israeli poetess Hila Plitmann (now his wife), and Charles Anthony Silvestri were highlights.

The piece HIGHER, FASTER, STRONGER, from the Olympic motto- Citrius, Altius, Fortius- composed for the 2012 BBC Proms came across strongly.

The evening ended on a high note with three wonderful pieces- a lovely rendition of COME, SWEET DEATH- music by Bach, conceived by Edwin London-, CLOUDBURST- a piece composed around an extraordinary desert storm that took place, and which featured the very effective technique of the entire Choir snapping their fingers together to simulate the sound of falling rain, and SLEEP, with the music originally set to Robert Frost’s meditative, end of life poem, STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING.

The program will be repeated next Friday at the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parrammatta, this time however conducted by Elizabeth Scott and Anthony Pasquill. This represents the Sydney Philharmonia Choir’s first ever Western Sydney subscription season.

There will be a further Eric Whitacre Concert to be performed in Melbourne on Saturday 13th April at the Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton.

To explore his Whitacre’s music more visit his official website on http://ericwhitacre.com. And there’s the link to his extraordinary Virtual Choir work- http://www.youtube.com/EricWhitacresVrtlChr.

(c) David Kary

1 April, 2013

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- LIGHT AND GOLD- THE MUSIC OF ERIC WHITACRE, Concert Hall Sydney Opera House, Sydney Arts Guide, David Kary

JOAN ARMATRADING IN CONCERT

The legendary, one and only, JOAN ARMATRADING

JOAN ARMATRADING (as you’ll see on Wikipedia). is “a three-time Grammy Award – nominee and has been nominated twice for Brit Awards as Best Female Artist. She also received an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection in 1996. In a recording career spanning 40 years she has released a total of 18 studio albums, as well as several live albums and compilations”.

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SYDNEY INDEPENDENT OPERA GALA CONCERT

Regina Daniel and Maia Andrews are magic together

From time to time the unacceptable question of opera’s relevance to modern society and even to the Australian musical scene is murmured. Such comment was sung down with incredible force and style during The Independent Opera’s 2013 Gala Concert. Four artists delighted a diverse audience with a variety of arias, duets and ensemble extracts.

The Sydney Independent Opera Orchestra supported the voices well. Its playing of three overtures with stable direction Steven Stanke continued the night’s display of the intense communicative power of operatic music.

Coloratura soprano Regina Daniel, soprano Maia Andrews, tenor Geoff Knight and baritone Randall Stewart illustrated the dramatic focus, interaction and levels of control required to deliver operatic moments from well-known works by Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet and Johann Strauss.

These skilful subtleties were evident in a sublime and charmingly cheeky ‘La ci darem il mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni when portrayed by Regina and Randall. Another Mozartean gem was the beautifully blended ‘Soave sia il vento’ from Cosi fan tutte.

Fireworks on many levels ensued when Geoff Knight delivered ‘La vita è inferno’ from Verdi’s La forza del destino. His is a significant voice coupled with an unwavering stage presence. Maia Andrews’ performance of ‘Ruhe sanft mein holdes leben’ from Mozart’s Zaide was floated with controlled beauty of tone. She will make a fine contribution as Zerlina in the Sydney Independent Opera’s Don Giovanni this November.

Rousing versions of favourites from Bizet’s Carmen added to the list of the concert’s crowd pleasers. An encore of ‘Do you hear the People Sing’ from Les Misérables was also a popular way to end the expressive programme.

The four soloists, mostly trained in Australia and now all performing here as well as with the Sydney Independent Opera, pleased the listeners repeatedly. There was much amour, amore and liebe in the room on this night. This was not just for the musicians and vocalists, but for opera itself.

Sydney Independent Opera’s annual Gala Concert was performed at the Independent Theatre, 269 Miller Street, North Sydney on Friday 22nd March. 2013.

© Paul Nolan

25th March, 2013

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- SYDNEY INDEPENDENT OPERA GALA CONCERT, Independent Theatre North Sydney, Sydney Arts Guide, Paul Nolan