After more than 15 years of building a strong identity in the world of baroque opera, Sydney-based Pinchgut Opera finally have their eye on Melbourne. Last December the company’s first step into the city came with American coloratura mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux in concert. For their second trip south on Saturday night, another highly enthusiastic audience had the good fortune of witnessing the exciting sound Artistic Director Erin Helyard never fails to extract from the Orchestra of the Antipodes and the period instruments they perform on.
|Erin Helyard conducting the Orchestra of the Antipodes at|
in Bach and Telemann at Melbourne Recital Centre
Opening with a majestic hymn and followed by a succession of arias, Telemann’s two-part Thunder Ode, written in response to Lisbon’s devastating earthquake on All Saints’ Day 1755, showcased just how inventive baroque music could be. Five soloists - Alexandra Oomens, Anna Dowsley, Richard Butler, David Greco and Andrew O’Connor - worked divinely as a chorus, having the ability to both shine with individual clarity and showing attentiveness to the balance they created with each of their colleagues.
Oomens was the first soloist to take centre stage as the others sat two aside, her angelic and breezy soprano filtering the air with "Bringt her, ihr Helden”. It was the second part’s “Schönster von allen Geschlechten” that Oomens branded excellence on every aspect of her performance with daintily pure tones and inviting innocent gazes with Melissa Farrow and Mikaela Oberg surrounding her with mellifluous flute obbligato.
|Soprano Alexandra Oomens and mezzo-soprano Anna Dowsley|
The second part soared with equal magnificence, including O’Connor’s flexible agitations in “Scharf Sind Deine Geschosse” to Carla Blackwood’s expert horn playing. Greco delivered a strident “Gürt An Dein Schwert!” and a reprise of the opening hymn, “Wie Ist Dein Name So Groß” concluded the second part in a euphoric blend of orchestral and vocal beauty you might have wished had no ending. And when thoughts were deflected from the actual splendour of the music, the large-titled translated text directed them no end to how great Thy Lord and God is. Telemann not only represented the symbolism of nature’s forces at work, but rallied Christians to a blameless God who could alleviate suffering - not such an easy sell today.
|Erin Helyard, Orchestra of the Antipodes and soloists at|
Melbourne Recital Centre in Bach and Telemann
Oddly, I couldn’t help thinking how the celebrated J.S. Bach was outshone by Telemann. Was Bach’s work considered an appropriate accompaniment to an Australian premiere because Easter is upon us? Was it going to sell more tickets? Personally, I would have savoured a night full of Telemann. Still, it’s easy to bask in Pinchgut Opera’s glorious work.
Perhaps it’s simply my optimism at work but I’m putting it out there and saying it won’t be long before the company presents a short season of staged opera in Melbourne as they do at Sydney’s City Recital Hall twice a year. The city’s healthy helpings of opera are noticeably missing the baroque gems that Pinchgut Opera are winning awards for.
Bach and Telemann
Melbourne Recital Centre, 6th April 2019
Sydney Recital Hall, 7th April 2019
Production Photos: Albert Comper