Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ancient myths inspire a world premiere double bill brought to the stage in sparkling form by Victorian Opera


If only everyone could share in the experience of just how nourishing and enlightening opera can be. Of course, that’s not going to happen. We are all wired differently and life has an infinite array of options out there. Well, not quite during a pandemic. For almost a year, opera, along with all other performing arts, was locked out from the theatre. That didn’t so much rob you of who you are but did so of what it could bring to you. Happily, we’re all back together and two new short works commissioned by Victorian Opera and produced during lockdown exemplify the power and purpose of the art form as well as showcasing the company’s spirit of teamwork and adventure.

Shakira Dugan as Cassandra and Sam Sakker as Apollo
Simmering with passions and pertinence, composer Simon Bruckard and librettist Constantine Costi’s Cassandra heads this double bill in a powerfully synergised and lightning-strike work. Following a short interval, composer Kevin March and librettist Jane Montgomery Griffiths’ Echo and Narcissus dapples the senses and touches the soul with its ethereally woven threads and glittering rays of hope.

Dusting off their stories’ Ancient Greek mythological foundations, both artistic teams imbue them with contemporary relevance and identifiable characters. They stand apart musically but are splendidly aided and integrated by the miracle-making hand of Sam Strong’s fastidious direction and Anna Cordingley’s spiffy and sparkling sets and costumes.

Cassandra is a muscular stand-alone work which perfects the art of binding words and music with the dynamic range of spoken language. In all its seriousness, however, a little wit and playfulness add flavour. Having been rejected by Apollo’s slimy advances, all the while desperately trying to exhibit strength in the face of masculine toxicity and dominance, the work elevates a familiar issue. Cassandra is cursed to foresee the future yet believed by no one. Having warned of the fall of Troy and the death of her father Priam to no avail, she later addresses her audience with the wisdom that “Fate is sculptured by our hand”, and, in so saying, suggests a call to action, a call for change.

The instrumentation is spare (two pianos, saxophone and percussion) but presents deliciously evocative hues and jazzy sounds across its unpredictable, meandering course - a treat conducted by the composer Simon Bruckard himself.

The cast of three engaging artists fired all engines impressively also. Mezzo-soprano Shakira Dugan displays superlative maturity in the title role as the elegant and spirited Cassandra with singing as lush and seductive as the figure she embodies. Without fail, Dugan has her audience behind her, fearing for her and hoping for her. As Apollo, it’s welcoming to see Sam Sakker back in Melbourne resonating the air with his large, shapely and unforced tenor, his gaudy image of a black velvet track-suited and gold-chained sleaze bucket perhaps not so welcome. And muscular baritone Simon Meadows celebrates a little too early in party-like fashion with groove in his step while throwing caution to the wind in outstanding form as  Priam.

Nathan Lay as Narcissus and Kathryn Radcliffe as Echo
In the final scene, it appears Troy falls and a glittering rain of confetti comes down as a symbol of the devastation of its buildings and statues. It’s a stunning stage image which integrates cleverly when the curtain goes up on Echo and Narcissus. What was the debris of glitter from Cassandra becomes the statuesque figures of an ensemble of six female singers who play a large and pivotal part in its more allegorical telling - Elizabeth Barrow, Emily Barker-Briggs, Heather Fletcher, Louise Keast, Jane Magao and Ursula Paez’s singing, harmony and balance are impeccable.

For being too talkative, Echo is cursed to repeat the last words of others. Narcissus is likewise cursed for breaking so many hearts and is doomed to fall in love with his own reflection, which he does so after rejecting Echo who has fallen in love with him.

March’s score for viola, woodwind, harp and percussion is a delicate blend of subtle and melodious music that shimmers throughout. As Echo, soprano Kathryn Radcliffe is radiant as ever, her pure and crystalline tone floating and lingering wondrously, albeit melancholically, as she suffers rejection while warm and glowing baritone Nathan Lay is deeply focused in his performance and his own image as Narcissus. Both succeed in imparting the meditative quality of the work. Nevertheless, as divine as it sounds, it feels a tad longer than it needs to be.

The two works couple nicely, giving ancient myth modern light in reminding us, like they always have again and again, of the flaws and truths about ourselves. In that respect, they’ll forever inspire new work.


Cassandra and Echo and Narcissus

Victorian Opera

Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne

Until 20th March 2021


Production Photos: Jeff Busby

Friday, February 26, 2021

Enchantment never wanes in Victorian Opera's revival of Respighi's The Sleeping Beauty

Commissioned by Herald Sun - submitted 23rd February 2021 (unpublished)


One of Victorian Opera’s greatest strengths is its ability to iron out any stiffness in the perception of opera by presenting a range of works that appeal to a broad audience. And children are never forgotten. 

Nadine Dimitrievitch and Vincent Crowley
as dancers of the Princess and the Prince 
Originally written in 1921 for the puppet theatre, Respighi’s The Sleeping Beauty is another such example. Reviving the piece after its 2017 company premiere, it’s a compact and magical theatrical treat. It’s also an illuminating work in a time when live performance is navigating its way to a new beginning. 

Centre stage are the larger than life puppets designed and crafted by Joe Blanck and manoeuvred by puppeteers dressed in black. Mostly in black too are the singers, who deftly shadow their crafted counterpart in Nancy Black’s thoughtfully integrated direction. 

In the storytelling, if you wondered why in heaven’s name a curse by the Green Fairy was put on the infant princess, there is perhaps a hint in an early line from a trio of comic gangly frogs exclaiming that an approaching man would skin them alive. Suggesting human and nature’s complicated relationship and that man must learn his place in it, nature never fails to return hope, which the Blue Fairy gives back. It feels relevant to our times, or do we search for relevance because of the circumstance we exist in? An impressive ensemble certainly aided that possibility.

Cast of The Sleeping Beauty featuring puppets of
the King, the Blue Fairy and the Queen

Puppeteer Nadine Dimitrievitch dances out the grown up Princess with poise as Georgia Wilkinson sings with a rich and elegant tone. Waking her up from her slumber, puppeteer Vincent Crowley makes priceless leaps and bounds on an obstacle course getting to the castle while Carlos E. Bárcenas is his ever-trusty nimble tenor. But so much more happens before all that.

Raphael Wong and Dimity Shepherd imbue the King and Queen with heft and subtlety. Shepherd also gives animated amusement to the mangy Cat. There is the weary old Ambassador given towering voice to by Michael Lampard. Kathryn Radcliffe cuts the air with florid turns and crystalline beauty as the Blue Fairy. Juel Riggall is a memorably threatening Green Fairy and Liane Keegan is a foundation-firm compliment to the Old Lady and opportunistic Duchess, as is Stephen Marsh’s resonant and oaky Woodcutter.

To Respighi’s eclectic and entertaining mix, Phoebe Briggs conducted a polished Orchestra Victoria with delicateness and grit. Only the prolonged pauses between scenes while the cast took their places distracted from the experience. But the enchantment never waned. 


The Sleeping Beauty

Victorian Opera 

Palais Theatre 

Until 26th February 

4-stars


Production Photos: Jeff Busby



Das Rheingold opens as a glinting nugget as part of Melbourne Opera's first instalment of Wagner's Ring Cycle

Commissioned by Herald Sun - submitted 6th February 2021 (unpublished)


In the world of opera, Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen is its greatest show on earth, a bucket-list, 4-part epic that begins with Das Rheingold and incorporates more than 15 hours of music. Nothing short of a miraculous achievement in challenging times, Melbourne Opera has revealed a glinting nugget in this first instalment. The second, Die Walküre, is scheduled for 2022 with the entire Ring to be presented in 2023. 

Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Wotan and James Egglestone as Loge

It’s a story of greed, dirty deals and renouncement of love to attain power, told across music of enormous expanse - a cursed ring forged from stolen gold precipitates life-altering events. Drawn on Nordic myth, gods, mortals, giants and dwarfs inhabit a world in which a sense of unease and trickery is pervasive. It sounds familiar!

Director Suzanne Chaundy instils confidence to support and endure the marathon ahead, obliging with a successful and legible interpretation in a subtly abstracted production. 

It begins lucently. Two Rhinemaidens swim across the heights via flexi-poles as their three operatic sisters sing radiantly from ringed swings. But the centrepiece of Andrew Bailey’s design is a large flat plane with a circular cut out that lowers and raises like a drawbridge, serving the drama thoughtfully all the way to the gods’ entry into their new home, Valhalla.

Just as impressive was the breadth of local expertise in the cast. 

Adrenaline-rich baritone Simon Meadows was the standout as the slimy dwarf Alberich, robber of the Rhinemaidens’ gold and forger of the ring. As Wotan, ruler of the gods, gravelly bass Eddie Muliaumaseali’i showed command and balance even when at times overpowered by the orchestra. 

James Eggelstone as Loge, Darcy Carroll as Donner,
Jason Wasley as Froh, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Wotan, 
Sarah Sweeting as Fricka and Lee Abrahmsen as Freia

Sarah Sweeting oozed lushness as his wife Fricka, Lee Abrahmsen was exhilarating as the ransomed goddess of youth, Freia, and clarion tenor James Egglestone was a dynamically charged Loge, Wotan’s calculating executive servant. Giants Adrian Tamburini and Steven Gallop pounded solidly as Fasolt and Fafner and a special mention to Michael Lapina’s cringing Mime and Darcy Carroll for an imposing Donner as he summoned the thunderstorm to clear the air. 

One more hurdle was getting conductor Anthony Negus out of the UK and into quarantine in time for rehearsals. What he presided over on opening night was a soundscape that rose to excellence with an orchestra of more than 90 musicians. Some fuzzy brass in the earlier stages aside, from the moment Wotan and Loge descended into Nibelheim the music remained formidable. 


Das Rheingold 

Melbourne Opera 

Regent Theatre 

Until 7th February 2021

Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo 

21st February 2021


4-stars 


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Bridging personal storytelling and cultural interconnectedness, Kate Kelly comes to the Yarra Valley Opera Festival: Limelight Review

https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/reviews/kate-kelly-yarra-valley-opera-festival/

Published online at Limelight Magazine 26th October 2020


If there were one thing to celebrate on Saturday’s World Opera Day 2020, it would be the opportunities companies have in taking advantage of online platforms. When it appears so many opera companies worldwide are functioning (or not) on survival mode, others are responding in creative ways to circumvent varying imposed restrictions. One such small Victorian player, Gertrude Opera, has taken a giant leap in presenting their 10-day Yarra Valley Opera Festival entirely online and marking Saturday with an easily ensnaring and multifaceted work.


Emily Burke as Kate Kelly
Kate Kelly was co-created by author Merrill Findlay and composer Ross James Carey, and illustrates the story of Kate Kelly, second youngest sister of Australia’s infamous bushranger icon, Ned Kelly.

Born in 1863 in Beveridge Victoria into a large Irish Catholic family and baptised Catherine Ada Kelly, Kate’s enigmatic story exemplifies a woman’s struggle against a lack of liberty, respect, choice and, worse, consequential and commonplace, unpunishable domestic abuse. She had gained notoriety as a horseback performer soon after Ned was hanged at Melbourne Gaol in 1880. For unknown reasons, she escaped the limelight and eventually resurfaced in New South Wales where she worked as a domestic servant in Forbes, fell pregnant to William “Bricky” Foster, married him and continued increasing the family. And then, now known as Ada Foster, she disappeared again. A week later, at the age of 36, her body was found in Forbes Lake.

Findlay and Carey’s current 50-minute work featuring soprano, baritone, tenor and small ensemble was originally written for one soprano voice when it premiered as The Kate Kelly Song Cycle in Forbes in 2011 at the inaugural Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival. It’s an alluring and evocative piece blending history, myth and circumstance; a work that cleverly bridges personal storytelling and cultural interconnectedness.

Findlay’s story is embroidered with sensitivity on a deceptively rich and sprawling canvas with its three identities contemplating events from a perspective seemingly beyond its time. Carey’s music – written for violin, cello, clarinet and accordion –responds marvellously, both in expressing context and poignancy without employing gimmick. Created in the current context of isolation, the production is incisively directed by Gertrude Opera Artistic Director Linda Thompson and employs the work of cinematographers from three states: Anna Cadden (Tasmania), Tiana Koutsis (Victoria) and Ehran Edwards (NSW). Each of the three soloists, performing in three different locations, are dressed in black as if presented as spirits of their characters in order to convey and confess their thoughts in a modern day life. And it fits the bill nicely.

The five-part work begins with Bricky’s Sorry Song, an ebbing and mournful ballad to which baritone Andrew Moran gives brawny weight and sorrowful depth. Sitting in a pub alone with a beer in hand, Bricky is stricken by remorse for the physical and psychological mistreatment he inflicted on his wife. “I bashed the woman I cherished”, he laments but declares he never killed her. Looking back, this is indeed a man who desperately wants to change; a modern man who has every possibility to act on it.

Within a verdant bush setting as Kate, fierce and commanding soprano Emily Burke introduces her audience to the galloping tempo of Ghosts of Glenrowan in a haunting and frenetically spun recollection of her past. Burke – well-remembered for her impressive display as the iron-fisted Aunt Lydia from the festival’s 2019 Australian premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale – infuses a profound pathos and disturbing anxiousness in her performance that reflects Kate’s trauma, acknowledged by Findlay’s text. Conspicuously, despite the abstract suggestion of Bricky’s dubious behaviour, she never points the finger, in a sign perhaps that, with the luxury of looking back, no woman should ever blame herself for another’s crime.

The third part belongs to Chinese shopkeeper Quong Lee who reminisces on his acquaintance with Kate and her children in The Harvest Moon in Spring. It’s a texturally rich and flavoursome song brought to life by the powerful and soaring tenor of Michael Lapiña – as well as the colours of Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street Chinatown – and captures the idea how stories and legends influence our culture and behaviour.

In the fourth song, Burke sings Kate’s beautiful and emotionally entwined Poor Irish and Wiradjuri with magnetism and gravitas, outlining a resemblance between her mother Ellen and Indigenous local Ellen Googoolin (Yellow Belly Woman) two women “fighting against the odds”. Set in a cemetery, Burke picks the rambling capeweed, makes a daisy chain and hangs it across a grave in a symbolic nod honouring our ancestors and influencers, and recognising humanity among all. Alone and at the edge of a lake, Kate’s imminent departure from life is depicted in the fifth and final I Heard the Banshee Cry, framed by the superstition of looking into a banshee’s eyes and being dragged down into a bog. It opens and concludes with harrowing discordance and contains a short-lived jaunty and jazzy optimism with Burke at her immersive best.

The four unseen musicians – Thibauld Pavlovic-Hobbs (violin), Zoe Knighton (cello), Brendan Toohey (clarinet) and Patrick Burns (accordion) – play a rapturous and expert treat.

There are, however, a couple quibbles that came to mind. Just occasionally, the text could be better economised to fuse with the musical phrasing and I also wondered if there was a thought to giving Ellen Googoolin a voice. Still, Kate Kelly is one of those works as complex as you wish to make it. It sails forward satisfyingly and, as art so spectacularly does, invites curiosity.

Coming to a close, Gertrude Opera has achieved much in bringing the 2020 Yarra Valley Opera Festival to its scattered online audience. And there’s every chance that when the festival returns to the beauty of its surroundings, there will be benefits to reap from this experience.


Kate Kelly

Gertrude Opera, Yarra Valley Opera Festival

24th October 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A one-on-one performance of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte via the telephone as part of the Yarra Valley Opera Festival: Limelight Review

https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/reviews/to-my-distant-love-yarra-valley-opera-festival/

Published online at Limelight Magazine, 19th October 2020

It started as an energetic day in Melbourne on Sunday. I swam at my local pool at the pre-booked time, I cycled within my permitted 5km radius (around and around a free-for-all local outdoor velodrome) and I walked to the shops to pick up a few groceries – masked, sanitised and abiding by the Victorian Government’s rules. But front of mind was a 5pm phone call I was waiting for eagerly, albeit a tad nervously, from my beloved. They called, we spoke and they sang to me Beethoven’s beautiful song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved).


Digital etching by artist Jess Reddi-Coronell
2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in December 1770 and celebrations have obviously taken a hit. Mitigating the damage, New York-based On Site Opera conceived what was billed as “the world’s first telephone-based opera experience”, in which a personal one-on-one performance of Beethoven’s song cycle is shared over the phone. With good fortune, lines are currently open to encounter its pleasures courtesy of Gertrude Opera’s Yarra Valley Opera Festival running until 25 October.

A few days prior to the call, an email arrived, beginning, “My Love, I miss you terribly”. On the next day, another: “I’m counting the minutes until I can hear your voice again.” The sender wasn’t suspicious though at any other time, I would have tossed this kind of email in with the junk.

I did my homework and studied the attached text, an evocatively flowing piece by Austrian writer and physician Alois Jeitteles written in 1815 when he was 21, translated here from German to English. Beethoven set it to music the following year in a six-part through-composed work; the music capacious, intimate and tender in its subtly varying moods. The work explores feelings of the deepest longing by a subject separated from their beloved by a great distance. A magnificent picture of nature is invoked and referenced as a carrier of its message of love. Its sentiments certainly resonate this year and it is a decadence so many would enjoy.

Young Melbourne-based baritone Daniel Felton was ‘my beloved’ and, after some initial clumsiness on my part, the conversation felt as though we had sort of picked up where we last left off. Daniel was polite and cheerful and asked if he could sing to me. And when he did, his warm and soothing baritone was a delight to covet. He asked if I had the text in front of me to follow. I did but how completely unnecessary! The first email informed me that ‘my beloved’ would be singing in German but Daniel sang the English text with sparkling clarity.

Not so the sound quality; the pre-recorded piano accompaniment sounded like it was drowning in water. Daniel’s vocal reproduction occasionally crackled too, especially at the top notes. Was I bothered? Not at all! Within no time, it was as if I was listening to an old gramophone recording, which only added to the sense of separation by time. And it uniquely belonged to me.

Three other artists – soprano Bethany Hill, tenor Joshua Oxley and baritone Darcy Carroll – are also at your service to sing to you in a one-on-one performance. What kind of experience others will have makes me curious.

Later, I looked across the treetops towards the city and wondered where my beloved could be. I felt a tad disappointed in myself because I could have tried harder. I wanted to know more. Where exactly was my beloved? Were they sitting of standing? What had they been doing all this time? But they swept me away in the moment and I’m afraid I may never hear their voice across the phone again.

To My Distant Love

Gertrude Opera

Yarra Valley Opera Festival

4-stars

David Lang's love fail in its Australian premiere at the Yarra Valley Opera Festival: Limelight Review

https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/reviews/love-fail-gertrude-opera-and-monk-parrots/

Published online at Limelight Magazine, 18th October 2020


The casualties in the arts during the COVID-19 crisis have been horrific. After cancellation upon cancellation of the year’s performance calendar, it is gratifying, however, to see Melbourne-based Gertrude Opera’s 2020 Yarra Valley Opera Festival survive the devastation wreaked by the pandemic. While much bigger companies around the country are grappling with our new state of living, Gertrude Opera’s CEO/Artistic Director Linda Thompson has worked around restrictions and invested in a 10-day online program of events. For its audience, rather than hoping disruptions won’t interfere with getting to a theatre, one hopes technical glitches won’t cause similar distress. None so far!

A high-calibre Gala at Home opened the festival on Friday evening and on Saturday evening, Pulitzer Prize winning American composer David Lang’s love fail made its Australian premiere, a work inspired by the oft retold tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde.


Charlotte Simcock as Lizzie and John Landis as Tristan
It’s not the first time Gertrude Opera has premiered Lang’s work. In the company’s inaugural 2015 festival, located in the central Victorian region of Nagambie Lakes, the difficulty of crossing a field (2002) introduced many to Lang’s atmospheric and hauntingly sung composition set in segregated slave-era Alabama. It was directed by American Luke Leonard, founding Director of New York-based theatre company Monk Parrots. Once again, Leonard brings his sophisticated and thought-provoking style to love fail in a visually powerful and musically pulsating collaboration between the two companies.

Lang’s work is divided into 12 parts, each a kind of meditation on various interpretations of Tristan and Isolde’s story. Executed by four female voices and augmented with minimal percussion, Lang employs the centuries-old tradition of a cappella in something of a non-narrative chamber opera. With voices alone creating the music to engage, text shares the podium in opening a window to the complexities of love and the ripples it creates. Drawing on stories by Gottfried von Strassburg, Richard Wagner, Sir Thomas Malory, Marie de France and contemporary American writer Lydia Davis, among others, Lang creates a varied portrait of love’s moods ranging from heart-wrenching to momentarily amusing.

Both as director and designer, Leonard has cleverly distilled a sense of the abstract and surreal, coupled with stunning imagery and wordless acting within the context of a symbolically appropriate remote and fertile rural property and its surrounds. And to this end, Leonard’s handling of love fail turns an a cappella chamber opera into a poignant short film. Almost 50 minutes in duration, the cinematic craftsmanship is high, the light and textures gleam, and the editing is fine-tuned to Lang’s superb use of intervals and silence. Perhaps not as Lang would have imagined it, this is art that responds to the times we are living in and Leonard’s style shows a beguiling affinity to Lang’s compositional landscape.

In Lang’s first part, he was and she was, Leonard introduces his five actors; Josh Landis as a handsome and introspective Tristan, Gates Leonard as a mysterious, goddess-like Isolde, Charlotte Simcock as Tristan’s forlorn and weary spouse Lizzie, and Amelia and Oscar Landis as the children. Only the children behave with animated freedom, their innocence tested by a love triangle that plays out between their father, mother and the ‘other’ woman.

Symbolism and reference are incorporated artistically; the crossbow of a warrior, the stick Tristan leaves behind for Isolde to find according to Marie de France’s version, pills dropped into glasses of wine as the potion for Tristan and Isolde to drink. A montage of fire burns across a field where the three stand in a triangle in the tenth part, "I live in pain". In A different man, an erect zucchini and two melons arranged on the kitchen table between an un-communicative Tristan and his spouse speak tellingly of sexual frustration and lack of desire. It’s a scene later played out in "forbidden subjects", a particularly thorny but witty description of cycling through subjects avoided and the possibility of their gradual revival. Love without sorrows is not an earthly given.

The singers – soprano Amelia Jones, mezzo-sopranos Heather Fletcher and Belinda Paterson, and contralto Alexandra Amerides – are exceptional in their ability to soar and stretch divinely through the many overlapping layers of Lang’s score. That they remain unseen rather defies what one might want of opera in performance but it opens a door to a new experiences and Leonard takes you deftly along with it.

The one thing missing was the use of subtitles, which would have assisted enormously in alleviating the extra concentration required to grasp all the text when it is so inextricably at one with the music. In a post-performance Zoom chat, Thompson was right to say subtitles were preferred – only budgetary constraints prevented their adoption it appears. As it is, the work is potent and streamlined and, for all its heritage, breathes with a fantastic contemporary exploration of and reflection on love.

love fail

Gertrude Opera and Monk Parrots

Yarra Valley Opera Festival

4-stars

Friday, October 16, 2020

Gertrude Opera's Yarra Valley Opera Festival launches online with a high calibre Gala at Home

Who else had the pleasure of attending Gertrude Opera’s Gala at Home as part of this year’s Yarra Valley Opera Festival? In a spiffily arranged show hosted by artistic director Linda Thompson and music director Brian Castles-Onion, great delights of operatic voice shone through in which togetherness and connection felt palpable despite separation brought about by restrictions and lockdowns. It indeed succeeds as a rejuvenating antidote.

The gala begins brilliantly in London with Zoe Drummond’s pure, crystalline and poised rendition of “Come, now a roundel” from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then, richness of sound and deep reserves of feeling are evidenced in mezzo soprano Na’ama Goldman’s "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah. The calibre remains high.

From Nanjing, Yang Luo is an impressive and passionate Verdian Don Carlo with “Io la vidi, al suo sorriso” and Ashlyn Tymms sings Carmen’s “Habanera” with love written all over it. Accompanied by cello in her Dresden apartment (spot the electric jug on the dresser), soprano Jessica Harper structures a beautifully inquiring perspective to Caccini’s “Amarilli, mia bella”. A dignified Sam Roberts-Smith sings Cardillo’s “Core ngrato” with ample baritone warmth and, from Florida, tenor Leo Williams takes a Gounod operatic rarity, “Source délicieuse” from Polyeucte, and imbues it with reverberant strength in his own creative video clip. 

Closing Act 1, beauty, grace and vitality accompany an endearing pair, soprano Stacey Alleaume in Melbourne and mezzo Sophie Yelland in Cardiff, in Gounod’s delectably flowing “D’un coeur qui t’aime”. 

Time for a 20 minute interval to pour yourself a drink! And adjust the cushions on the sofa.

Then, a lush, dynamic and confident Naomi Flatman launches Act 2 from Brisbane with R. Strauss’ “Sein wir wieder gut” from Der Rosenkavalier. Enrique Guzmán demonstrates dexterity in a robust and perilous bel canto display of Semiramide’s “Ah, dov'è il cimento" from Mexico City and, from Melbourne, cavernous and colourful Chinese baritone NuoLin OuYang stops you in your tracks with Mozart’s “Hai gia vinta la causa!” from The Marriage of Figaro.

From Douglas Lilburn’s setting of six poems from New Zealand poet Denis Glover's sequence, Sings Harry, tenor Harry Grigg’s crisp and youthful tenor resonates warmly from London with “I remember”. Elegance and heart are in big supply with Alexandra Lidgerwood’s “Giunse il fin il momento ...” from The Marriage of Figaro and a tear or two welled during John Marcus Bindel’s quite monumental “Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha.

The stunner of the evening, and under the spell of her character, was layer-rich mezzo  Sarah Heltzel’s highly entertaining and expressive “Perfect as we are” from Adamo’s Little Women. And the night ended on another high in San Francisco with molten bass baritone Hadleigh Adams’ hugely touching “Our very own home” from Gregory Spears’ 2016 opera, Fellow Travellers, based on Thomas Mallon’s 2007 novel. 

In all, the artists’ preparedness, commitment and execution are particularly apparent. The show bodes well for the week ahead. Kudos to Gertrude Opera for investing in and creatively presenting opera and, gratefully, for sharing their passion.


Gala at Home

Yarra Valley Opera Festival - Gertrude Opera 

Saturday, 16th October 2020 and online.

https://www.gertrudeopera.com.au/