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23 July, 2010

Richard Bonynge's 80th birthday recital.

Richard Bonynge’s 80th birthday concert. Angel Place Recital Hall. Sydney. Sunday 17th July 2010

Dear Colleagues,

It was a pleasure to hear 20 or more fine artists performing in concerted operatic pieces in this delightful 1250-seat auditorium at Wynyard in the city. The carefully chosen program was skillfully introduced by Moffatt Oxenbould. It involved some famous pieces as well as some quite obscure works, parallel to Mr Bonynge’s own career. There were six duets between female voices (and none was from Norma or Rossini’s Semiramide!) along with numerous trios and quartets. Each was masterfully accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley on a concert grand piano.

Most impressive of the evening perhaps was last, the finale from Faust, with Daniel Sumegi, Rosamund Illing and David Corcoran. It received a rapturous response from the enthusiastic audience.

The bass/baritone duet Suoni la tromba from I Puritani (and its entire preceding scena) with John Wegner and Daniel Sumegi also brought the house down. Hearing it from two such talented singers made one realise why it almost caused a riot when first performed in Paris. I had goose bumps on my heels! Something happened at the very end when neither singer went up to the high tonic note, even though both are capable of it – nothing lost, it was still magnificent!

Ms Cullen, in her Aida duet with Ms Aivale Cole, showed that she is an imposing, even incomparable Amneris, just as Ms Cole makes an excellent young dramatic Aida.

Fiona Janes and Ms Cole sang from Meyerbeer’s early opera Semiramide Reconosciuta ‘Ella e la fiamma mia’ . To my ear it was as Rossinian as Rossini, written when Meyerbeer was 28, almost 20 years before Huguenots and over 40 years prior to his final mature work, L’Africaine. It was another charming pearl in this enjoyable recital.

Other prominent artists were Jose Carbo, Amelia Farrugia, Emma Matthews and Catherine Carby amongst many others.

As the official party entered the hall after interval Mr Bonynge received a five minute standing ovation from the doting audience. He sat next to Bob Hawke in the first half. Margaret Whitlam, Megan Evans, Malcolm Donnelly and Lauris Elms were also present, along with many other admirers of the maestro.

The evening’s performances made one wonder yet again at the rostering of singers by the national company. Their current Fanciulla del West is a case in point. The soprano and tenor leads acquitted themselves well … yet they are not in the class of the singers they replaced (Gasteen and O‘Neill) nor of their baritone colleague John Wegner. Indeed, there were some bigger and more exciting voices on show in this concert for Mr Bonynge’s birthday. Rosamund Illing has a magnificent voice and dramatic presence. It is a mystery as to why we have not heard her for some years with the national company. Also, Australian opera audiences, at least in NSW and Victoria, have been denied Ms Cullen’s unique artistry in place of competent but far less qualified singers.

It is yet another fault that the national company is apparently not honouring Mr Bonynge’s long and dedicated service to their company and to opera generally in this country. They could have used their otherwise empty hall on a Sunday, made a few dollars and showcased some young (and not so young) artists. But Opera Australia management seems content to continue purveying mediocre performances, often using untrained, amplified voices and thus ignoring their own company’s published mission statement.

So that readers can see the broad range of this wonderful concert I have listed the artists and their songs below. Some new contestants and Richard Bonynge himself will be at St Paul’s Church on Sunday 25th July for the final scholarship adjudication of the Joan Sutherland Society (at 2pm).

At the end we were addressed in a slightly long winded speech by Alan Jones and all were exhorted to join the Joan Sutherland Society. Governor Marie Bashir spoke succinctly and sincerely about the amazing career of Richard Bonynge who responded with brief but gushing gratitude to all for the ‘unexpected pleasure’ of the evening.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

Programme Part I

'Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso' from La Rondine - Giacomo Puccini Rosamund Illing, Amelia Farrugia, Aldo Di Toro, (replaced by Mr Choo), David Corcoran

'Si, fuggire' from I Capuleti e I Montecchi - Vincenzo Bellini Emma Matthews and Catherine Carby

'Fu la sorte dell'armi a'tuoi' from Aida - Giuseppe Verdi Aivale Cole and Bernadette Cullen

'Dal tuo stellato soglio' from Mose in Egitto - Gioacchino Rossini Daniel Sumegi, Henry Choo, Catherine Carby, Dominica Matthews

'Nedda.... Silvio' from Pagliacci - Ruggero Leoncavallo . Amelia Farrugia and Jose Carbo

'Ella e la fiamma mia' from Semiramide - Giacomo Meyerbeer Fiona Janes and Aivale Cole

'Suoni la tromba' from I Puritani - Vincenzo Bellini John Wegner and Daniel Sumegi


Programme Part II

'Fiero incontro' from Tancredi - Gioacchino Rossini Lorina Gore and Fiona Janes

'Over the hills and far away' from The Beggar's Opera - John Gay arranged by Richard Bonynge and Douglas Gamley Phoebe Humphreys and Sam Roberts-Smith

'Through the world' from The Bohemian Girl - Michael William Balfe Emma Moore, Henry Choo, James Roser

Duet from Haydee - Daniel Francois Auber Angela Brun and Henry Choo

'D'un Coeur qui t'aime' - Charles Gounod Emma Moore and Dominica Matthews

'Je suis le joli geolier' from La Perichole - Jacques Offenbach Dominica Matthews, Henry Choo, Sam Roberts-Smith

'Revons, c'est l'heure' - Jules Massenet Rosamund Illing and Catherine Carby

'Doubte la lumière' from Hamlet - Ambroise Thomas Angela Brun and James Roser

'Allerte! Allerte!' from Faust - Charles Gounod Rosamund Illing, David Corcoran, Daniel Sumegi

This evening's programme was created by Sharolyn Kimmorley & Moffatt Oxenbould