Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Soprano Rebecca Rashleigh soars with dedication and composure to win the Herald Sun Aria: Herald Sun Review

Published in print in edited form on 11th October, 2018.

The excitement and unpredictability of competition in the Herald Sun Aria Final ended on Tuesday night with Melbourne soprano Rebecca Rashleigh taking out a well-deserved first prize. Amongst a field of five finalists singing for cash prizes totalling $60,000, Rashleigh’s composure, dedication and unforced technique graced the Melbourne Recital Hall. And just as gracious came an acceptance speech that rattled emotions.

Rebecca Rashleigh making her acceptance speech, Herald Sun Aria Final
In a two-part evening, each finalist sang one aria in the first part and, in the same order, presented a second in part two. Judges Dobbs Franks, Tiffany Speight and Greg Hocking, who conducted the Melbourne Opera Orchestra as part of the prize’s new partnership, had the difficult task in selecting a winner. 

Rashleigh began with Liù’s plea to Calaf from Turandot, “Signore, ascolta!”, and invested it with eloquence and heartfelt meaning. In her second, Rashleigh rendered the delicacy and luminosity of “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka with angelic beauty and deep sincerity. With it came assured phrasing, dexterous filigree work and a scintillating top. Rashleigh now joins acclaimed winners that include Kiri Te Kanawa (1965), Daniel Sumegi (1987) and Nicole Car (2007).

Two other sopranos (Tessa Hayward and Ruth Blythman) and two baritones (Stephen Marsh and Michael Lampard) performed with notable commitment and class. 

Taking out the Dame Elizabeth Murdoch Prize, Hayward sang Gilda’s “Caro nome” from Rigoletto with especially affecting innocence and fine technique. Lampard’s utter conviction to his character was marvellous to witness in both the declamatory ferocity of Iago’s “Vanne; la tua meta gia vedo” from Verdi’s Otello and soulful embrace of the text in Wolfram’s "Song To the Evening Star" from Tannhäuser. Lampard’s thrilling spectrum earned him the inaugural Richard Divall Prize.

Marsh’s attractive, warm and amber toned baritone found greater depth in his second aria, Rodrigo’s noble “Per me giunto è il dì supremo” from Don Carlos. Of Blythman’s two arias, Elvira’s “Ernani involami” from Ernani was honoured with lashings of colour and a gripping cabaletta.

Hosting what is Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prize for emerging classical singers, Christopher Lawrence of ABC Classic FM provided light relief with entertaining introductions. As “the best-looking orchestra in the country”, the Melbourne Opera Orchestra played with sumptuous support.

Herald Sun Aria Final 2018
Melbourne Recital Centre 
9th October, 2018


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